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In the previous chapter we gave an introductory explanation as to why models play such a central role in contemporary science, and also alluded to the fact that without models there wouldn’t be much science left to consider. In order to fully appreciate this deep connection between science and the practice of modelling it will be useful to view models from a historical perspective. This chapter will give an account of the historical development of the concept which stretches from the scientific revolution of the 17th century to the scientific inquiry of today. In order to fully appreciate this account we will also investigate the concept of a “mechanism”, which since its inception into the natural philosophy of the 17th century has become a central term in modern science. Finally, we will look closer at an example from the history of Swedish science, namely the pioneering work of the engineer and scientist Christopher Polhem, and in particular his work on scale models.
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