American anthropologist Clifford Geertz once said, “I think the perception of there being a deep gulf between science and the humanities is false.” This statement could not be more true. Most people consider the sciences and the humanities to be completely unrelated, but in fact they complement each other splendidly. The sciences strive to explain the universe and all of its constituents through observation and experiment. The humanities involve the study and analysis of human culture, and are traditionally comprised of literature, history, and philosophy. The study of these humanities, in particular, greatly benefits scientific study, and each subject has something unique to offer.
Literature is the study of compositions that have excellence in form and express ideas of permanent or universal interest. Many literary works have influenced science in profound ways. Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, for example, inspired the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo program a century later. From the Earth to the Moon was a fictional story set in the post-Civil War United States of America, where three men designed a cannon to launch themselves to the Moon. Verne calculated several parameters needed to have successful lunar landing which were surprisingly close to accurate. His novel sparked an interest in space travel which climaxed in NASA successfully landing a man on the Moon in 1969, and an interest which continues to this day.
Another literary work which influenced science was H.G. Well’s science fiction novella The Time Machine. Set in England, the story follows the protagonist, known simply as “The Time Traveller”, as he visits ancient and future societies using his time machine. With this book, Wells singlehandedly kindled overwhelming public interest in time travel. Wells himself coined “time machine”, which is the most popular term used today. Although the methods used in the story are theoretically impossible, Wells correctly hypothesized that time was the fourth dimension. Time travel would be a huge subject of inquiry in physics only a few decades later, with Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity. The Time Machine helped kickstart this area of research through its compelling and realistic storyline.
Another key subject of the humanities which benefits science is history. History is the study, analysis, and explanation of past events. Countless historical events and time periods have shaped science since the dawn of human civilization. The Renaissance is an example of a historical era which had a huge impact on science. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that began in Italy and lasted from the 1300s to the 1600s. It rapidly spread throughout Europe, and people became fascinated by new and unprecedented ideas. They developed a new philosophy of individuality and reason. They also learned more about government and society through reading contemporary Roman and...