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Natural philosophy encompassed all natural phemena of the physical world. It sought to discover the physical causes of all natural effects and was little concerned with mathematics. By contrast, the exact mathematical sciences were narrowly confined to various computations that did t involve physical causes, functioning totally independently of natural philosophy. Although this began slowly to change in the late Middle Ages, a much more thoroughgoing union of natural philosophy and mathematics occurred in the seventeenth century and thereby made the Scientific Revolution possible. The title of Isaac Newton's great work, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, perfectly reflects the new relationship. Natural philosophy became the 'Great Mother of the Sciences', which by the nineteenth century had urished the manifold chemical, physical, and biological sciences to maturity, thus enabling them to leave the 'Great Mother' and emerge as the multiplicity of independent sciences we kw today.
Edward Grant is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author and editor of twelve books, including God and Reason in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2001), and The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts (Cambridge, 1996). He is also the author of approximately ninety articles on the history of science and natural philosophy. He was Vice-President and President of the History of Science Society and was awarded the prestigious George Sarton Medal of that society.