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Thread: Greatest European Country In Terms Of Achievements

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    Senior Member FadeTheButcher's Avatar
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    The scientific method has more to do with philosophy and logic than science. It's hardly a discovery.
    ROFL . . . you are not serious are you?
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    Why is Great Britain the greatest European country in terms of achievement?

    1.) The Scientific Revolution + 2.) The Industrial Revolution + 3.) The Enlightenment = Modernity. The modern world is as Anglo-Saxon as the ancient world was Greco-Roman. That is why we are speaking English here today folks.
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    Senior Member jcs's Avatar
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    Germany lags far behind Britain, France, and America in scientific and technological accomplishments.
    Technological achievements?--I concede that America and Britain surpass everyone else by far.

    In terms of theoretical achievements (both in science and mathematics, as the former relies heavily on the latter), I think Germany has more accomplishments.

    I would give an edge to the British in Literature
    Why? There are a number of good British authors, but I'll still trump them all with Goethe.

    France or Italy in Art
    That easily goes to Italy.
    What about architecture? I tend to favour the Gothic, but Graeco-Roman civilisations were more architecturally innovative.

    1.) The Scientific Revolution + 2.) The Industrial Revolution + 3.) The Enlightenment = Modernity.
    Hence my problem with Britain :
    Out of life's school of war...

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    Another excerpt from Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment. The other excerpt was taken from the same source.

    Samuel Johnson's London, 1737-1784

    At two o'clock on an August afternoon in 1768, the bark Endeavor put to sea from Plymouth under the command of second lieutenant James Cook, then just thirty-nine years old. Cook's orders were to sail southwest down the Atlantic, double Cape Horn, and then make from Tahiti, a one-way voyage of some 13,000 miles. The motive behind this expensive, lengthy, and dangerous trip was not trade. No diplomatic services were to be rendered, nor, for that matter, did Cook have messages to convey to anyone at his destination. The purpose of Endeavor's voyage was to observe an astronomical phenomenon known as the transit of Venus.

    A transit of Venus occurs when Venus as observed from Earth crosses the face of the Sun. The transit occurs in pairs, separated by eight years, with each pair of transits separated by more than a century. There were no transits of Venus in 20C, for example. A century prior to Cook's deparature, English astronomer Edmond Halley had realized that the transit of Venus offers a unique opportunity to measure precisely the distance from the earth to the sun, by taking advantage of the phenomenon known as parallax -- the differences in the apparent position of a heavenly body depending on the observer's location. If the magnitude of the apparent displacement is known, the application of basic trigonmetry will yield the desired result. But to get the data, people had to be waiting in place at widely dispersed points on the globe when the auspicious day arrive, hence the trip to Tahiti.

    In a request for the government's support of the expedition, the British Royal Society had pointed out that everybody else was going to do it and it would be humiliating for Britain to hang back, because
    . . . the British nation has been justly celebrated in the learned world, for their knowledge of astronomy, in which they are inferior to no nation upon earth, ancient or modern, and it would cast dishonour upon them should they neglect to have correct observations made of this important phenomenon . . .
    And so the British government decided to sent a vessel halfway around the world, hoping for clear skies on the appointed day.

    Once the decision had been taken, the Admiralty decided to tack on another task. After completing his astronomical observations, Cook was to proceed southward, seeking out Terra Australis Incognita, the continent that had long been thought to be somewhere at the bottom of the world, counterbalancing the land masses of the northern hemisphere. Upon discovering it, he was to take care to describe the land, its features and soils, and collect samples of its "beasts, birds, fishes and minerals, seeds of trees, fruits and grains." The naturalist who would assist him in this endeavor was on Joseph Banks, 22 years old, a wealthy amateur educated at Harrow, Eton, and Oxford, who was paying 10,000 pounds -- on the order of a million dollars in today's money -- for the privilege of cramming his six-foot-four-inch frame into a cabin six feet long and running a fair risk of dying of the next two years.

    Few episodes better capture the spirit of intellectual life in 18C Europe. A passion to know was everywhere -- to catalog and classify; to order; to probe into the how and the why of things; to take the world apart and see what made it tick. It was a small change in some ways -- humans had been curious since they became human -- but by Cook's time humans had found a way to continually satisfy that curiosity. They had discovered how to accumulate knowledge.

    The rage to learn, understand, and then shape the world had its manifestation all over the Island. Perhaps Britain's most portentous accomplishment during the 1760s occurred in Scotland, in a room that Glasgow University had given over to the use of a young instrument-maker named James Watt. Some years earlier, Watt had been asked to repair a working model of the steam engine, a balky, inefficient, and unreliable device. By the end of the 1760s, Watt had created the engine that would power the Industrial Revolution.

    The implentation of that revolution was concentrated not around London, but in a small region of central England, bounded on the west by Shropshire's Coalbrookdale, where Abraham Darby had first smelted iron with coal in 1709; on the south by Birmingham, where mechanized cotton-spinning began in the 1740s; on the east by Derby, where the world's first recognizable factory opened in 1721; and on the north by Preston, where in 1732 Richard Arkwright, inventor and entrepreneur of the cotton textile industry, was born. But for all the activity elsewhere, the indisputable center of English creative life and to an important degree the center of Western civilization -- Paris was its only competitor -- was London. "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life," Samuel Johnson famously wrote, and never did the city merit the accolade than during Johnson's years there.

    When he arrived in 1737, London was huge by the stands of the time, even though it was smaller than Hangzhou in 12C. The population of London was approaching 700,000, making it more than twice as large as any city in Europe except Paris. Within the confines of Great Britain, no other city even came close. Cities like Birmingham and Manchester had fewer than 30,000 inhabitants, and Oxford had only about 8,000.

    Londoners were crammed into an area that is a fraction of the city we know today. Since the time of Elizibeth, the Crown had tried to restrict new construction. Occasionally new areas were built from scratch, as after the Great Fire of 1666, but within a few decades property owners had subdivided the buildings, adding new entrances, and surreptitously filling up courtyards and back gardens with new structures. London became a rabbit warren of buildings crisscrossed by tiny lanes -- as of 1732, London counted 5,099 streets and alleys. Open country began at Hyde Park.

    The London Johnson knew was the London that Hogarth painted -- muddy, unpaved, with open sewers and a stinking Thames, lavish wealth facing desparate poverty in an intimacy that we can scarcely imagine today. "Here lives a Personage of high Distinction," wrote one observer, "next door a Butcher with his stinking Shambles! A Tallow-Chandler shall front my Lord's nice Venetian window; and two or three brawny naked Curriers in their Pits shall face a fine lady in her back Closet." Fishmongers, theatres, silversmiths, brickworks, brothels, hospitals, docks, chophouses, factories, churches, gardens, grocers, palaces, tenements -- all were jammed together on the twisting streets. In the slums, a gin shop could be found in one of every four dwellings, advertising "Drunk for a penny, dead-drunk for twopence." The crowds of pedestrians mingled every level of English society -- "rambling, riding, rolling, rushing, jostling, mixing, bouncing, cracking and crashing in one vile ferment of stupidity and corruption," complained Smollet's Squire Bramble.

    The noise was deafening and the stench prodigious. London had no municipal program for collecting waste, no street-cleaners. Policing was like Antonine Rome -- nearly nonexistent. Until 1750, the City of London had been patrolled by some 1,000 night watchmen who had become a national joke -- drunken and ineffectual, the "charlies" of derisive abuse. In 1750, Henry Fielding hired some thief-takers who later evolved into the Bow Street Runners, rudimentary police patrols. But for practical purposes a citizen of London who ventured out of doors after dark should be prepared to fend for himself. Hangzhou of seven centuries earlier had been cleaner and safer.

    The transporation system of Georgian Britain had yet to catch up with the one enjoyed by Roman Britons 17 centuries earlier. By the 1780s, the Newcastle & London Post Coach was advertising a service that would leave Newcastle at four in the morning and get the passenger into London after 39 hours of continual travel, breaking only for meals, jouncing along rutted roads at six miles an hour -- phenomenally fast by previous standards. But a Roman Briton making the same journey routinely did it in the same elapsed time, one a much smoother road, with a full night's sleep at a comfortable way station to break the journey.

    The British of 18C knew immeasurably more than the Romans about the physics and mechanics of heat, but if you were looking for creature comforts, the villa of a wealthy Roman Briton with its central heating and good plumbing would have been a more comfortable place to live than the palaces built by Georgian aristocrats. And if you caught a chill during the winter damp, good luck. Bleeding was still the treatment of choice for a wide variety of ailments, germ theory was a century in the future, and hygiene was unheard of. A new wife of 18C had to enter upon childbearing knowing that she must expect to lose half of her babies before they reached adolescence and face odds of about one in 20 of dying in each childbirth herself. All in all, if you were going to get sick, you were better off in Song Hangzhou, and perhaps even in Antonine Rome, than in Johnson's London.

    British physicians and their continental counterparts had made progress in preventing people from getting sick. One of the first controlled studies in the history of medicine established in 1747 that scurvy could be prevented by the juice of citrus fruits and thereby transformed the health of sailors on long voyages. Western medicine was finally becoming a science of precisely described symptoms and diseases, even if physicians still couldn't cure many of them.

    Despite the bad hygiene and filthy streets, public health was improving, mainly because plagues were slowly disappearing. The word plague evokes the Black Death of mid-14C, but plagues had been a continuing fact of life. The single city of Besancon reported plague 40 times between 1439 and 1640. London suffered too. As late as 1667, Sir William Petty still had reason to expect about five plagues in the next century:London within ye bills hath 696 thousand people in 108 thousand houses. In pestilential yeares, which are one in twenty, there dye one sixth of ye people in ye plague and one fifth of all diseases. The people which ye next plague of London will sweep away will be probably 120 thousand.[/quote]But Sir William was wrong. Exactly why is still unclear, but the plague disappeared from Western Europe after an outbreak in Marseilles in 1720. Infectious diseases remained a problem -- pandemics of typhus and influenza swept most of Europe in the late 1730s and early 1740s, and influenza struck London in 1782 -- but the scale of mortality diminished. Other infectious diseases, known today only by their descriptions in obsolete medical books, disappeared altogether. Smallpox had been a killer rivaling the plague -- a medical text of 1775 estimated that it still affected 95 of every 100 people, and killed 1 in 7. But in 1717 Mary Montagu published a treatise on the Turkish use of pus to inoculate against smallpox. Only four years later, Cotton Mather and Zabdiel Boylston used primitive statistical methods to demonstrate its effectiveness in Boston. By 1796, when Edward Jenner developed a safe method of inoculation using the cowpox virus, inroads against smallpox had already been made in the upper classes and vaccination was becoming widespread throughout Europe. Little by little, the power of disease to destroy was being circumscribed. Epidemics in 19C would continue to carry off tens of thousands of people at a time, but in the last half of 18C, Europe saw the end of the days when whole societies were routinely crippled by outbreaks of disease.

    Famines subsided along with the plague. It is hard to realize today, but famine was a common European phenomenon through 18C. France, for example, among the richest of the European countries, experienced 13 general famines in 16C, 11 in 17C, and 16 in 18C, plus hundreds of local famines that affected a single town or region. The explanation for the famines was simple. The yields from cereal grains were low and the capacity to store reserves primitive. Two bad harvests in a row, and people starved. It was during 18C that technological progress in agriculture began to break the grip of that brutal arithmetic.

    The most striking constant across imperial Rome, Song Hangzhou, and Georgian London was a widespread passion for the arts. An inventory conducted in 1785 tells us that 650 individual businesses in London made their money through books, from writing to printing to engraving to sales. When the newly established Royal Academy opened an exhibition of paintings in the spring of 1780, it drew 61,381 persons by the end of the year -- roughly 1 in ever 12 Londoners in that one season alone, from a population that was overwhelmingly poor and illiterate. Crowds swarmed to the two licensed dramatic companies of the era, Drury Lane and Covent Garden, packing theatres that by the end of the century had been built and rebuilt so that each accomodated 3,000 people at a time. London's first professional concert series began in the 1760s, and by 1771 had led to a dedicated concert auditorium at the Pantheon on Oxford Street -- "the most elegant structure in Europe, if not the globe" in the mind of one observer -- and then in 1775 to a 900-seat auditorium in Hanover Square and Oxford Street.

    Whether they were attending a theatre, a concert, or an exhibition at the Royal Academy, or buying a book at the local bookseller, Londoners in 18C had available to them a range of work that the citizens of neither imperial Rome nor classical China could approach. And yet the major artistic genres were curiously different phases, and the public's attitude toward their practitioners was mixed. Some fine painters were at work in 18C, among them Britain's own Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Hogarth. But the prevailing British attitude toward these living artists, like the Romans towards theirs, was scathing -- to the influential art critic Anthony Ashley Cooper, contemporary British painters were "illiterate, vulgar and scare sober." History has treated the targets of Cooper's scorn more respectfully, but the world of art was still absorbing the extraordinary outpouring of great art during the Renaissance, and the output of 18C could not compete. Drama had a similar problem. Despite a few luminaries such as Congreve, Goldsmith, and Sheridan, the legacy of the Elizabethean era was so daunting that it cast a long shadow over playwrights of 18C. In contrast, fiction and poetry were blossoming. Fielding and Richardson were turning out the earliest examples of the genre that would peak in 19C, the domestic novel, and late 18C would see the first work of the great Romantic poets.

    If you sought a golden age in 18C, the place to look was music. Johnson's London consisted of a half-century that saw parts or all of the careers of Mozart, J.S. Bach, Haydn, and Handel. Any one of them would have made the era musically distinguished. To have all four, plus Gluck, Rameau, Telemann, Pergolesi, Domenico Scarlatti, and Stamitz at the same time, plus Couperin and Vivaldi in the earl decades of the century and Beethoven showing his energetic genius at the end of it, makes 18C the most densly packed century of realized musical genius in history. London did not contribute people to this collection of stars -- it had not produced a major composer since Henry Purcell in 17C -- but it provided enthusiastic patrons. When Joseph Haydn was brought to London late in the century, he was astonished and overwhelmed by the British passion for music -- "his presence seems to have awakened such a degree of enthusiasm in the audience, as to almost amount to a frenzy," wrote another musician. In a sign of things to come, the British backed their enthusiasm for the arts with cash. Haydn cleared 350 pounds for one concert in 1791 and 800 pounds for another in 1794 -- liberating sums for a composer who had felt himself little more than a glorified servant in the continental courts.

    Densely packed is the right descriptor for Johnson's intellectual London writ large. The city was jammed with men of immense accomplishment, sometimes resident, sometimes visitors, and they knew each other across disciplines and professions in a way that rarely happens today. In Johnson's London, this intellectual cross-fertilization was reified in The Club, which formed in the winter of 1763-1764. It was nothing like the imposing institutions that became the famous London clubs of 19C, just a group of men getting together every Monday night at the Turk's Head in Gerrard Street.

    But those men included statesmen James Fox and William Wyndham, linguist Sir William Jones, naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, dramatists Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, actor David Garrick, Bishop Percy, historian Edward Gibbon, Johnson himself, and two men who together were to provide the intellectual templates for the Whigs and the Tories of British politics for the next century, Adam Smith and Edmund Burke. Other eras have had their roundtables and salons, but in 18C London they were peopled by men who would change the intellectual shape of the West, for Samuel Johnson's London was above all the London of the Enlightenment.

    By the 1750s the Enlightenment had become the continent's child as well, but it had been Britain's baby. Issac Newton's relevation in Principia Mathematica (1687) that the universe is rational, obeying fixed and predictable laws, had changed the way that people perceived the universe. God was not longer the interfering, jealous God of the Old Testament nor the loving personal God of the New, but God the Clockmaker, setting the universe on a course governed forever after by mathematically perfect immutable laws. If only mortals had enough data, they could predict everything that happened, and the tool whereby they could do this in a clockline universe was reason. Reason, sweet and infallible, should be brought to bear on hoary traditions that governed the pursuit of knowledge, relationships between the sexes and the social classes, standards of art and music, and the exercise of political power.

    In 1690, three years after Newton published Principia, John Locke, an English physician and friend of Newton's, published two short works that fit perfectly with the emerging new world view. The first to appear was Essay Concerning Human Understanding, proclaiming the doctrine of tabula rasa. Humans came into the world as blank pages upon which experience writes -- a doctrine perfect for a world in which reason rules, perfect for a world beginning to think that all things are possible. Human nature was not immutable, nor was human history required to move in cycles. By applying reason not only to institutions but to the socialization of the young, humans could be improved along with their institutions. History henceforth could take on a direction, and that direction was progress.

    A few months later, Locke's Second Treatise of Government was published, averring that government is the servant of men, not the other way around, tand that men come into the world possessing natural rights to their own bodies (and therefore to their labor) that governments can legitimately circumscribe in limited ways. We in the United States think of Locke as an intellectual aspiration of the American Founders, which he was. But his more immediate role in English life was to put in philosophical terms the movement toward liberty that had swept England during its Glorious Revolution and was to provide the foundation for the reforms that continued throughout 18C.

    By the late 1720s, England's combination of economic prosperity, social stability, and civil liberties had no equivilant anywhere on the continent. The young Voltaire, forced by circumstances to live in England (he had been exiled for inappropriately challenging a nobleman to a duel), was entranced. After returning to France, he wrote Letters on the English, praising their virtues. The book was a sensation in French intellectual circles. Before Letters on the English, according to report, there were but two Newtonians in all of Paris; now, Parisian thinkers learned English, translated English works, and borrowed from English fashion. Voltaire followed up with essays on Newton and Locke, taking the Enlightenment to Paris, where it evolved in its own way, producing some decades later a Revolution very different from England's Glorious one.

    The philosophes of the Enlightenment, whether French, English, or Scottish, included only a few actual philosophers. As a group they were more like a meeting of The Club, thinkers from many fields who had a common interest in starting with first principles, with human liberty heading the list. The philosophes, in Peter Gay's words, sought "freedom from arbitrary power, freedom of speech, freedom of trade, freedom to realize one's own talents, freedom from aesthetic response, freedom, in a word, of moral man to make his way in the world."

    Some, like Rousseau, would be the inspiration for artistic and literary movements that continue to this day. Another, the University of Glasgow's Adam Smith, would lay out an economic theory so influential that it would be as powerful a force for economic growth in 19C as James Watt's steam engine would be for industrial growth. Published in 1776, Wealth of Nations introduced three elementary principles that now are seen as common sense, but which were at the time revolutionary. It was Smith who taught the world that a voluntary exchange benefits both parties -- trade is not a zero-sum game in which one person wins while another loses, but win-win. It was Smith who taught governments that the trick to becoming rich is competitive advantage -- don't try to subsidize the production of goods that others can produce better or cheaper. It was Smith who invoked the metaphor of the Invisible Hand to explain why a person whose only motive is to make money will be led to produce goods that other people need, of the right quality, at prices they can afford, if only that person is constrained to compete with others who are also trying to make money. Beyond these specifics, Smith changed forever the age-old assumption that wealth is a limited pie over which governments and men fight to get the biggest price. Wealth can grow without limits -- that was perhaps Smith's most revolutionary idea of all.

    Growth, accumulating knowledge, change -- Johnson's Britain was in a ceaseless, restless state of becoming. In the decades when Johnson was in London, the visible results were still limited. When Johnson died in 1784, London was not physically much differentfrom the way it had looked when he arrived in 1737. The city was still lit by candles, people still traveled no faster than a galloping horse, and they communicated no more rapidly than a message could be conveyed on horseback. The middle glass had grown during Johnson's decades but was still a thin layer sandwiched between manual laborers below and the landowning gentry above. Women had few more rights in 1784 than they had enjoyed in 1737. Even among men, the right to vote in 1784 was still restricted to a minority. Poverty and illiteracy were rampant. On a long list of measures, a comparative ranking of Rome, Hangzhou, and London at their respective points would show London lagging. What London had that the two other cities did not was dynamism. In 18C, the intellectual change was already kaleidoscopic. In a few decades, every other kind of change would become kaleidoscopic as well.
    The Phora

    "There are no principles; there are only events. There is no good and bad, there are only circumstances. The superior man espouses events and circumstances in order to guide them. If there were principles and fixed laws, nations would not change them as we change our shirts and a man can not be expected to be wiser than an entire nation."
    —Honoré de Balzac

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    England by far! We gave the world Newton, Darwin, Watts, Shakespeare, Rutherford, Maxwell, too many to list. Least amount of contributions: Ireland.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaius Caligula
    Central Events in Technology

    -400 -- China, Egypt -- First know use of the abacus.

    [...]

    1950 -- England -- Alan Turing creates the Turing test, establishing a criterion for judging artificial intelligence.
    Why would I trust your list, when Carl von Linné, Olof Rudbeck, Anders Celsius and John Ericson isn't even on it? They have achieved nothing?
    Leave behind the weak, we must take the strong in hand:
    Together are the wicked violent forces in command

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    Anglo-American-centric educational and publishing society is great at touting the virtues of its own culture while either though ignorance or design ignoring achievements east of Paris, or north of London. It makes its own gravy.

    No wonder internet lists of world achievements in English language will predominantly list off accomplishments from the same cultures – and when the majority read those lists, and accept them also without question, is that a surprise?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gaius Caligula
    Another excerpt from Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment. The other excerpt was taken from the same source.
    Less is more, Gaius. Sum it up, or noone will read it. Not me atleast, that's for sure.
    Leave behind the weak, we must take the strong in hand:
    Together are the wicked violent forces in command

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    Why would I trust your list, when Carl von Linné, Olof Rudbeck, Anders Celsius and John Ericson isn't even on it? They have achieved nothing?
    Not to mention others like Gutenberg and so on, that list seems quite subjective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcs
    In terms of theoretical achievements (both in science and mathematics, as the former relies heavily on the latter), I think Germany has more accomplishments.
    I disagree. There are too many British scientists each with significant contributions.

    James Clerk Maxwell - Did extraordinary work in Electromagnetism. It was from here that Einstein came up with relativity, Einstein was thinking about Maxwell's implications in Electromagnetism. If he had lived longer he may have actually gone on to discover special/general relativity first.
    He is Scottish even though someone implied he was English.

    Newton - Calculus, not many greater achievements in maths than this. Notably he was a physicist as well. He considered light to consist of 'corpuscles', this leads to wave-particle duality which is fundamental to Quantum Mechanics. (Note this was back in the 1600's).

    Hawking - Prominent mathematician and theoretical physicist in modern day. Most notable for his work with black holes and the big bang.

    Paul Dirac - Swiss father, English mother. Famous for his work in quantum mechanics, such as the Dirac wave equation used in Quantum Field Theory : a horrible equation involving tensors.
    "In 1930 Dirac published The principles of Quantum Mechanics and for this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933"

    James Watt - already mentioned.
    John Napier - Logarithms.
    Brook Taylor - Taylor Expansions.

    the list goes on...

    In brief, being a physicist the main type of mathematics that I meet is calculus, logarithms and taylor expansion. So in terms of the mathematics that is required for physics (the methods) the British contributed more. Sine, Cosine, Tan functions are courtesy of Newton and Napier, later to be expressed in complex terms by Euler (Not British, Not German).


    Compare to Germans:

    Kepler - planetary motion mostly, hence Keplerian Motion.
    Planck - His result for blackbody radiation was fudged; his use of statistical physics was messy but he got the right answer.
    Max Born - Jewish German
    Gauss - is born in an area that is now German. So I'll give you that.

    fill in more if you wish, but their achievements are eclipsed by the above list.

    and compare to others:

    Copernicus - Polish
    Einstein - Austrian . He crops up in almost every area of physics.
    Brahe - Danish
    Galileo - Italian
    Niels Bohr - Danish
    Boltzmann - Austrian, did a lot of work in statistical physics and deserves much praise.
    Euler - Swiss
    De Broglie - French

    I still believe the UK to be far ahead in terms of contributing to scientific knowledge (and overall), however, I think the main conclusion to draw is that everyone above is European. :icon_bigg

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