Science (from scientia, Latin for "knowledge") has come to mean a body of knowledge, or a method of study devoted to developing this body of knowledge, concerning the universe gained through repeated observation and experimentation. See scientific method. Exactly what science and scientific methods are subjects studied by the philosophy of science.
Until the Enlightenment, and even after that to some extent, "science" (or its Latin cognate) meant any systematic or exact, recorded knowledge (and the word continues to be used in this sense sometimes). "Science" therefore had the same sort of very broad meaning that "philosophy" had at that time. There was a distinction between, for example, "natural science" and "moral science," which latter included what we now call philosophy, and this mirrored a distinction between "natural philosophy" and "moral philosophy." More recently, "science" has come to be restricted to what used to be called "natural science" or "natural philosophy," and further distinctions have been drawn within it, such as physical science, biological science, and social science. Mathematics is still very often considered a science simply because it is exact and careful; but it is often not thought of as an example of a science because it is not aimed at empirical knowledge.
The term "science" is sometimes pressed into service for new and interdisciplinary fields that make use of scientific methods at least in part, and which in any case aspire to be systematic and careful explorations of their subjects, including computer science, library and information science, and environmental science. Mathematics and computer science reside under "Q" in the Library of Congress classification, along with all else we now call science.
Physical & Biological Sciences
- Materials Science
- Earth Sciences
- System Science
- Medical Sciences
- Cognitive Science
Organization and practice of science: International Council of Science (ICSU)