If you hear the words exact science, a lot of mathematical formulas, difficult-to-solve problems, or even a blackboard full of numbers that you don’t understand may come to mind. But what really are the pure sciences? What is the use of studying an exact science? We tell you everything you need to know.
What are exact sciences
The exact sciences are those that produce knowledge through methods of observation and experimentation. This investigation is orderly and rigorous. This branch of knowledge is also known as pure sciences, hard sciences or fundamental sciences. To study reality, they tend to follow flexible and constantly improving theoretical models. They do this for the purpose of obtaining measurable results. This study is also characterized by following rules that can guarantee objectivity during the investigation processes.
As its name implies, an exact science seeks precise results. The conclusions reached must be able to be validated in physical reality. It must also be possible to order them from the language of mathematics. In general, the exact sciences propose the use of methods that make irrefutable both the impartial nature of the studies and the results achieved. Scientists also resort to a methodology that prevents their own personal ideas from getting involved. Doing this allows them to make predictions that will later be invalidated or validated in practice.
In other words, the hard sciences only admit facts and principles that are capable of demonstration. This can be achieved through mathematical systems and models applied in experimentation processes. This quality distinguishes them from the so-called soft sciences, also known as human or social sciences. The latter use qualitative study methods, and their axes of study are based on theories and conjectures with greater or lesser authority, although generally accepted to carry out research. Unlike the “pure disciplines”, their results are marked by uncertainty and imprecision.
The origin of the pure sciences
Despite what it may seem to us, the statement “exact science” is an expression that is derived from a classification of the sciences carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. This classification is still valid in academic settings. In fact, the dictionary of the Royal Academy equates it to mathematics. It should be noted that since the origin and development of the new scientific paradigms, some thinkers think that this has changed. For example, they defend the opinion that the so-called pure or exact sciences have stopped responding to what defined them since their birth: their ability to provide accurate results, free of uncertainty.
Likewise, it is possible to distinguish between disciplines that propose two types of accuracy: experimental and non-experimental. The first are those capable of demonstrating their hypotheses in the experimentation process. On the other hand, the latter focus on ideal objects. Scientists in this area use axioms (propositions that do not need to be proved) to drive logical deductions. These conclusions are not necessarily supported by concrete reality. Thus, these disciplines can be developed from logical deduction processes (going from the general to the particular) that use statements based on axioms.
Brief history of the exact sciences
The journey from knowledge to accuracy postulated by the hard sciences was long and complex. Before the scientist Isaac Newton published his work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, the sciences were a set of disciplines that were confused with the arts. Thus, during the Middle Ages this knowledge was grouped into the so-called “seven liberal arts.” Among them two groups could be found: the Trivium or arts of eloquence: dialectic, rhetoric and grammar; and the Quadrivium composed of music, geography, arithmetic and astronomy.
As you can see, it is the latter that gave rise to the expression “pure sciences”, since the object of study of each of them was considered to be in its pure state. In this way, arithmetic studied numbers in a state of purity, and so on in other cases.
The Greek influence on the exact sciences
However, classical Greece had set an important precedent in terms of logic and numbers. For example, the philosopher Aristotle, codified and ordered the steps that reasoning follows when it comes to making a proof. Today we can find this information in the Organon, which is a compilation of his works on logic. Likewise, mathematics, as a pure science, also has important antecedents in the various Greek schools such as the Athenian, the Ionia or the Pythagorean. In this sense, one of the most significant advances in logic was due to Euclides. This Greek mathematician managed to integrate all the existing theorems in a single diagram from five axioms.
With the arrival of the Middle Ages, from the 6th century, higher studies began to be governed under the aforementioned Trivium and Quadrivium. This happened until the arrival of the Renaissance period. From this, thinkers like Bacon, Galileo and later Descartes lay the foundations of the current scientific method. Later, it was consolidated by Newton and his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, a work that marked a milestone in the history of science.
The pure sciences in modern times
Already in the 20th century, the well-known scientists Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell published three works that emulated the name of Newton’s book (Principia Mathematica). This occurred from 1910 on and represented an effort similar to that made by Euclid in his day. Why can we say this? Because it was an attempt to compile all the mathematical knowledge of the time from a series of axioms. Based on the study of the work of Whitehead and Russell, the German-born philosopher Rudolf Carnap proposed a new classification. This classification of the sciences is the one that we still use today: formal, non-experimental, natural and social sciences.
Professionals of the exact sciences
Among the disciplines called pure or exact are mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, biochemistry, computing, pharmacology, oceanography or medicine. Each of them in turn has various branches or applications. Of all these, mathematics is considered a reference among the formal sciences. This is because other disciplines such as physics use it to support their own research.
In this way, professionals in the pure disciplines are in charge of planning, coordinating and directing research and activities. They develop these activities in the aforementioned fields of physics and mathematics, biological sciences, research and statistics, development of chemical plants, preparation of financial reports, assistance in many projects related to production or the environment, among others. As you can see, there are many subjects they cover.
In conclusion, the so-called pure sciences offer a diversity of trades. Do you know others? Do you know of other applications of the exact sciences? Well, we wait for your comment!
And if you are also not sure if you should study a career in this branch of knowledge, we recommend that you take our vocational test. You will discover in two minutes which race is the best for you.