[Physics] What is physics?

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Definition of physics

Definition 1: Physics is the science of matter and energy and their interactions.

Definition 2: Physics is the study of nature and its laws.

Origination: The origin of the word ‘Physics’ can be discovered in Greek as ‘phusike’ that stands for ‘knowledge of nature’.

Difference between Physics and Chemistry?

Unlike Chemistry that studies matter for its composition, structure, properties, behavior, and its action in the reactions, Physics studies the matter for its motion, behavior through space and time, and its related subsistence of force and energy.


Physics exists even before the mankind had begun. Since the earliest times and the oldest civilizations, people have shown relative interest in understanding physics and its principles. Therefore, reading about the timeline of physics has been of a great interest to scientists as well as to everyone.

  • Physics is one of the basic disciplines of natural sciences, other being Biology and Chemistry.
  • Physics can be traced back to find its implications in the Early astronomy which is even before 3000 BCE. People of early civilizations like Sumerians and ancient Egyptians had a theoretical knowledge of the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars.
  • Thales, who is known to be the first physicist, believed that the world was built of only one element, water and interactions among its different states(water, ice, and water vapor) gave materials different properties.
  • In or around the times of writers such as Archimedes and Ptolemy, people began to have a basic understanding of the different scope of physics – Mechanics, Optics, and cosmology.
  • Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, dubbed as the father of science, tried many attempts, through his theoretical explanation of his theory of elements, to justify his ideas of motion and gravity.
  • In the early 17th century, experimental physics began finding its roots in early modern Europe as physicists such as Galileo Galilei, Christiaan Huygens, Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and Sir Isaac Newton extensively used their experimental skills united with the theoretical knowledge to confirm theories.
  • Galileo Galilei successfully forged some of the basic results in dynamics.
  • Sir Issac Newton is credited to have formulated the three laws of motion and gravitational theories.
  • Following the developments taking place in the late 17th century, thermodynamics was recognized as a field of experimental inquiry by physicist and chemist Boyle, Young, and many others.
  • After thermodynamics, the nature of electricity was observed by scientists such as Robert Boyle, Stephen Gray, and Benjamin Franklin who later created the foundation for this work.
  • Soon, the relation between electricity and magnetism was proposed by was Hans Christian Ørsted .
  • It was Michael faraday who later demonstrated the inter-dependence of Magnetism and electricity.
  • Breakthrough in the modern physic came about as late in the twentieth century taking Einstein’s theory of relativity and Quantum mechanics as its base.
  • Particle physics was developed which studied the particle nature and its behavior in different mediums of space.

Purpose of Physics

Since ancient times, we have been dealing in physics for simplifying our work and finding reasons. While earlier scientists explored further, it was understood that physics is studied for purpose, not just one but many. Therefore, it is correct to say that physics serves a purpose. Some of them includes-

  • Our everyday activities are driven by various fundamental forces of the universe. From basic activities like speaking to astronomical findings, all of the earthly activities are based on the principles of Physics.
  • One purpose of physics is to design and conduct the experiments that help us to formulate laws and understand things around us in a better way.
  • In physics, our aim is to see the physical world as manifestation of some universal laws in different domains and conditions.
  • A single law can describe various natural phenomena’s. For example law of gravitation clearly explains the fall of an apple to the ground, the motion of the moon around the earth and the motion of planets around the sun.


NCERT, Class XI, part 1, Physical world


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