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Branches of Specialization

Science may be roughly divided into the physical sciences, the earth sciences, and the life sciences. Mathematics, while not a science, is closely allied to the sciences because of their extensive use of it. Indeed, it is frequently referred to as the language of science, the most important and objective means for communicating the results of science. The physical sciences include physics, chemistry, and astronomy; the earth sciences (sometimes considered a part of the physical sciences) include geology, paleontology, oceanography, and meteorology; and the life sciences include all the branches of biology such as botany, zoology, genetics, and medicine. Each of these subjects is itself divided into different branches—e.g., mathematics into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and analysis; physics into mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, acoustics, electricity and magnetism, and atomic and nuclear physics. In addition to these separate branches, there are numerous fields that draw on more than one branch of science, e.g., astrophysics, biophysics, biochemistry, geochemistry, and geophysics.

All of these areas of study might be called pure sciences, in contrast to the applied, or engineering, sciences, i.e., technology, which is concerned with the practical application of the results of scientific activity. Such fields include mechanical, civil, aeronautical, electrical, architectural, chemical, and other kinds of engineering; agronomy, horticulture, and animal husbandry; and many aspects of medicine. Finally, there are distinct disciplines for the study of the history and philosophy of science.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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