What is Natural Sciences?

Meaning of Natural Sciences

The natural sciences are one of the three main divisions of science, the other two being the social sciences and the formal sciences.

Chemistry, biology, earth sciences, astronomy, and physics are part of the natural sciences.

There are also cross-disciplines, such as biophysics, that integrate different aspects of multiple topics. Before the 17th century, these disciplines were often called “natural philosophy” and lacked the types of experiments and procedures used today.

Parts of the Natural Sciences


Much of what defines modern civilization stems from advances in knowledge and technology caused by research in the natural sciences and chemistry. For example, modern food production dates back to the Haber-Bosch process that was developed during World War I.

This chemical process allows for the creation of fertilizing nitrates from atmospheric nitrogen, rather than relying on biologically fixed nitrogen sources such as cow manure, significantly increasing the amount of food several countries produce.

Biology and Medicine

Thanks to advances in biology, especially those in the 20th century, doctors are able to use advanced medicines to cure or treat many diseases that were once fatal.

Through research in biology and medicine, the scourges of the 19th century and earlier, such as plague and smallpox, have been largely controlled.

Perhaps most importantly, infant and maternal mortality rates in industrialized countries have fallen dramatically. The biological subfield of genetics has even allowed scientists to understand the code of life itself and to recognize how it expresses itself within each person.

The study of drugs used in the treatment of patients can fall under the category of natural sciences.

Earth sciences

Advances in earth science have enabled humanity to extract vast amounts of minerals and oil from the earth’s crust, powering the engines of modern civilization and industry.

Paleontology , a subfield of earth science, provides a window into Earth’s distant past, long before humans existed .

Through discoveries in geology and similar fields within the natural sciences, scientists are better able to understand the history of the planet and predict what changes it might undergo in the future.

A study of science often involves investigation and experimentation.

Astronomy and Physics

Physics is, in many respects, the science that underlies all other natural sciences, offering some of the most unexpected insights of the 20th century.

Among the most notable was the discovery that matter and energy are constant, and simply transfer from one state to another. Through astronomy, scientists have discovered an enormous amount of information about the universe.

In previous centuries, the entire universe was thought to be just the Milky Way galaxy, until a series of debates and observations in the 20th century revealed that the universe is literally millions of times larger than previously imagined.

Different Types of Natural Sciences

The establishment of the scientific method in the 17th century and the subsequent scientific revolution helped create modern science. The natural sciences are often called “hard science” due to their heavy use of objective data and quantitative methods that are based on numbers and mathematics.

In contrast, the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology, rely more on qualitative or non-numerical assessments and tend to have less certain conclusions.

The formal sciences, including mathematics and statistics, are highly quantitative in nature, but do not typically involve the study of natural phenomena or experimentation.

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