The human stories that make science are fascinating.
Sometimes, the way science is taught and communicated, it seems as if there is some kind of magic formula or method used by scientists to discover life’s and the universe’s mysteries. But, that’s not true. Instead, the history of what we today call “science” is a constantly evolving conversation about truth. The Path-To Foundation’s work is focuses on explaining that conversation, and trying to bring more people into it.
Throughout history, people around the globe have invented and used a vast variety approaches to understanding how the world works, sometimes with spectacular success. Anyone who’s taken physics in school, or marveled at the reality of space exploration, can appreciate that Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity—with its ability to accurately predict the paths of bodies in motion—exemplifies a fundamental breakthrough of a sort rarely rivaled in the history of science.
In 2019, what has now become our prototype path, called “The Path to Newton,” was published online as part of The Prediction Project at Harvard, and its success inspired the establishment of the Path-To Foundation. The Path to Newton illustrates and explains interconnections, over time, amongst the wide variety of cultures, people, ideas that ultimately led Newton to be able to produce his theory of gravity. Importantly, it shows how ideas that today’s experts would designate as “correct” or “incorrect” propagate forward in time, influencing the thinking of future generations.
Today, the Path to Newton is available as an online interactive experience where users can click on images of scientists, or their ideas or writings, to access a narrative description of the history leading to Newton’s theory of gravity. The Path to Newton can also be printed as an inspiring poster, that offers an overview of the full story offline. The path begins in Ancient Mesopotamia, and ends with Edmund Halley using Newton’s theory to predict the return of “Halley’s Comet.”
The Path-To Foundation’s work includes the creation of additional paths, beyond The Path to Newton, including:
The Path from Newton to Einstein
The Path to Darwin
The Path from Darwin to Modern Genetics
As each path is released online, free to all who want to learn and teach using it, additional curricular materials are added as well.
We hope that the materials created by the Path-To Foundation will engage and intrigue learners of all ages, from all backgrounds, with a variety of interests, all over the world. And, most of all, we hope to increase the appreciation of science as an ongoing conversation, where rigorous methods of debate are applied—but no answer is ever “final.”