Daniel Leith, of Kings High School, asks :-

Who was the first ever scientist in the world?

Philip Catton, a philosopher of science at the University of Canterbury, responded.

There are good reasons to think that Isaac Newton was the first ever scientist. But Newton's case also shows how problematic your question is. Before Newton, philosophers discussed whether science is possible. After Newton, philosophers discussed how science is possible. Newton accomplished something so significant that after him no-one doubted that science had become actual.

But Newton was successful partly because there were others before him who had nearly started science. Newton said, "If I have seen further, this is because I stood on the shoulders of giants." Galileo Galilei was one of the giants whose work Newton used. Often Galileo is called the first scientist. But again, Galileo was successful partly because there were others before him who had nearly started science.

One person whose work really helped Galileo was the Greek genius Archimedes. Archimedes lived nearly two thousand years before Galileo. Science almost got started back then but not quite. In fact it nearly started about then not only among the Greek people but also (separately) in China and in India. In all of these places there were many people who were almost scientists. Some of them were women - the great genius Hypatia, for example.

One reason science didn't start long before Galileo or Newton is that people didn't perform experiments. People who had the time to study things usually didn't like to "get their hands dirty" doing practical things. It was beneath their station. And people who had practical skills were simply too poor and too busy to study things. So no-one studied things using systematic experiments. Galileo helped start the "experimental method" of science. Newton improved Galileo's method and used it to help make physics and astronomy into the first real sciences.