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Supersededscientifictheories
FromWikipedia,thefreeencyclopedia

Asuperseded,orobsolete,scientifictheoryisascientifictheorythatwasoncewidelyacceptedwithinthe
mainstreamscientificcommunitybutisnolongerconsideredtobeanadequateorcompletedescriptionof
reality,orisconsideredtobesimplyfalse.Thislabeldoesnotcoverprotoscientificorfringescience
theorieswithlimitedsupportinthescientificcommunity.Also,itdoesnotmeantheoriesthatwerenever
widelyaccepted.Sometheoriesthatwereonlysupportedunderspecificpoliticalauthorities,suchas
Lysenkoism,mayalsobedescribedasobsoleteorsuperseded.
Insomecasesatheoryorideaisfoundbaselessandissimplydiscarded.Forexample,thephlogistontheory
wasentirelyreplacedbythequitedifferentconceptofenergyandrelatedlaws.Inothercasesanexisting
theoryisreplacedbyanewtheorythatretainssignificantelementsoftheearliertheoryinthesecases,the
oldertheoryisoftenstillusefulformanypurposes,andmaybemoreeasilyunderstoodthanthecomplete
theoryandleadtosimplercalculations.AnexampleofthisistheuseofNewtonianphysics,whichdiffers
fromthecurrentlyacceptedrelativisticphysicsbyafactorthatisnegligiblysmallatvelocitiesmuchlower
thanthatoflight.AllofNewtonianphysicsissosatisfactoryformostpurposesthatitismorewidelyused
exceptatvelocitiesthatareasignificantfractionofthespeedoflight,andsimplerNewtonianbutnot
relativisticmechanicsisusuallytaughtinschools.Anothercaseisthetheorythattheearthisapproximately
flatwhileithasforcenturiesbeenknowntobewrongforlongdistances,consideringpartoftheearth's
surfaceasflatisusuallysufficientformanymapscoveringareasthatarenotextremelylarge,and
surveying.

Contents
1 Supersededtheories
1.1 Biology
1.2 Chemistry
1.3 Physics
1.4 Astronomyandcosmology
1.5 Geographyandclimate
1.6 Geology
1.7 Psychology
1.8 Medicine
2 Obsoletebranchesofenquiry
3 Theoriesnowconsideredincomplete
4 Seealso
5 References

TheobsoleteGeocentricmodelofthe
universeplacestheEarthatthe
centre.

Supersededtheories
Biology
Spontaneousgenerationisaprincipleregardingthespontaneousgenerationofcomplexlifefrom
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inanimatematter,whichheldthatthisprocesswasacommonplaceandeverydayoccurrence,as
distinguishedfromunivocalgeneration,orreproductionfromparent(s).Falsifiedbyanelegant
experimentbyLouisPasteurwhereapparentlyspontaneousgenerationofmicroorganismsoccurred,
itdidnothappenonrepeatingtheprocesswithoutaccesstounfilteredaironthenopeningthe
apparatustotheatmosphere,bacterialgrowthstarted.
Transmutationofspecies,Lamarckism,inheritanceofacquiredcharacteristicsfirsttheoriesof
evolution.Notsupportedbyexperiment,andrenderedobsoletebyDarwinianevolution,Mendelian
geneticsandepigenetics(althoughsomeelementsofLamarckianevolutionarecomingbackinthe
areaofepigenetics).
Mendeliangenetics,classicalgenetics,BoveriSuttonchromosometheoryfirstgeneticaltheories.
Notinvalidatedassuch,butsubsumedintomoleculargenetics.
Maternalimpressionthetheorythatthemother'sthoughtscreatedbirthdefects.Noexperimental
support(anotionratherthanatheory),andrenderedobsoletebygenetictheory(seealsofetalorigins
ofadultdisease,genomicimprinting)
Miasmatheoryofdiseasethetheorythatdiseasesarecausedby"badair".Noexperimentalsupport,
andrenderedobsoletebythegermtheoryofdisease.
Preformationismthetheorythatallorganismshaveexistedsincethebeginningoflife,andthat
gametescontainaminiaturebutcompletepreformedindividual,inthecaseofhumans,a
homunculus.Nosupportwhenmicroscopybecameavailable.Renderedobsoletebycytology,
discoveryofDNA,andatomictheory.
Recapitulationtheorythetheorythat"ontogenyrecapitulatesphylogeny".SeeBaer'slawsof
embryology.
Telegonythetheorythatanoffspringcaninheritcharacteristicsfromapreviousmateofitsmother's
aswellasitsactualparents,oftenassociatedwithracism.
Vitalismthetheorythatlivingthingsarealivebecauseofsome"vitalforce"independentof
nonlivingmatter,asopposedtobecauseofsomeappropriateassemblyofnonlivingmatter.Itwas
graduallydiscreditedbytheriseoforganicchemistry,biochemistry,andmolecularbiology,fields
thatfailedtodiscoverany"vitalforce".FriedrichWhler'ssynthesisofureafromammoniumcyanate
wasonlyonestepinalongroad,notagreatrefutation.
OutofAsiatheoryofhumanoriginThemajorityviewisofarecentAfricanoriginofmodern
humans,althoughamultiregionaloriginofmodernhumanshypothesishasmuchsupport(which
incorporatespastevidenceofAsianorigins)

Chemistry
Calorictheorythetheorythataselfrepellingfluidcalled"caloric"wasthesubstanceofheat.
Renderedobsoletebythemechanicaltheoryofheat.
ClassicalelementsAllmatterwasoncethoughttobecomposedofvariouscombinationsofclassical
elements(mostfamouslyair,earth,fire,andwater).ThiswasfinallyrefutedbyAntoineLavoisier's
publicationofElementsofChemistry,whichcontainedthefirstmodernlistofchemicalelements,in
1789.
PhlogistontheoryThetheorythatcombustiblegoodscontainasubstancecalled"phlogiston"which
enteredairuponcombustion.ReplacedbyLavoisier'sworkonoxidation
Point2ofDalton'sAtomicTheorywasobsoletedbydiscoveryofisotopes,andpoint3bydiscovery
ofsubatomicparticlesandnuclearreactions.
VitalismSeesectiononbiology.

Physics
EmissiontheoryofvisiondiscreditedbyIbnalHaytham(Alhacen)
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AristotelianphysicssupersededbyNewtonianphysics
Ptolemy'slawofrefraction,replacedbySnell'slaw
LuminiferousaetherfailedtobedetectedbythesufficientlysensitiveMichelsonMorley
experiment,madeobsoletebyEinstein'swork.
CalorictheoryLavoisier'ssuccessortophlogiston,discreditedbyRumford'sandJoule'swork
Contacttensionatheoryonthesourceofelectricity
VisvivaGottfriedLeibniz'selementaryandlimitedearlyformulationoftheprincipleof
conservationofenergy
"Purelyelectrostatic"theoriesofthegenerationofvoltagedifferences.
Emittertheoryanothernowobsoletetheoryoflightpropagation.
Progressionofatomictheory
Democritus,theoriginatorofatomictheory,heldthateverythingiscomposedofatoms,which
areindestructible
JohnDalton'smodeloftheatom,whichheldthatatomsareindivisibleandindestructible
(supersededbynuclearphysics)andthatallatomsofagivenelementareidenticalinmass
(supersededbydiscoveryofatomicisotopes).[1]
Plumpuddingmodeloftheatomassumingtheprotonsandelectronsweremixedtogetherin
asinglemass
Rutherfordmodeloftheatomwithanimpenetrablenucleusorbitedbyelectrons
Bohrmodelwithquantizedorbits
Electroncloudmodelfollowingthedevelopmentofquantummechanicsin1925andthe
eventualatomicorbitalmodelsderivedfromthequantummechanicalsolutiontothehydrogen
atom
Allofclassicalphysics,includingNewtonianphysics,supersededbyrelativisticphysicsandquantum
physics.However,classicalphysicsisalimitingcaseofthelattertwotheories,anditisoftenavery
goodapproximation.

Astronomyandcosmology
PtolemaicsystemreplacedbyNicolausCopernicus'Heliocentricmodel.
GeocentricuniversemadeobsoletebyCopernicus
HeliocentricuniversemadeobsoletebydiscoveryofthestructureoftheMilkyWay.Heliocentrism
onlyappliestotheSolarSystem,andonlyapproximately,sincetheSun'scenterisnotattheSolar
System'scenterofmass.
CopernicansystemmadeobsoletebyJohannesKeplerandIsaacNewton
Newtoniangravitysupersededbygeneralrelativity,towhichitisanexcellentapproximationunless
typicalspeedsapproachthatoflightinavacuum(c).Theanomalousperihelionprecessionof
MercurywasthefirstobservationalevidencethatNewtoniangravitywasnottotallyaccurate.
Luminiferousaethertheory
SteadyStateTheory,amodeldevelopedbyHermannBondi,ThomasGold,andFredHoylewhereby
theexpandinguniversewasinasteadystate,andhadnobeginning.ItwasacompetitoroftheBig
BangmodeluntilevidencesupportingtheBigBangandfalsifyingthesteadystatewasfound.

Geographyandclimate
FlatEarththeory.OnlengthscalesmuchsmallerthantheradiusoftheEarth,aflatmapprojection
givesaquiteaccurateandpracticallyusefulapproximationtotruedistancesandsizes,butdepartures
fromflatnessbecomeincreasinglysignificantoverlargerdistances.
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TerraAustralis
HollowEarththeory
TheOpenPolarSea,anicefreeseaoncesupposedtosurroundtheNorthPole
Rainfollowstheplowthetheorythathumansettlementincreasesrainfallinaridregions(onlytrue
totheextentthatcropfieldsevapotranspiratemorethanbarrenwilderness)
IslandofCaliforniathetheorythatCaliforniawasnotpartofmainlandNorthAmericabutrathera
largeisland

Geology
Abiogenicpetroleumorigin
Catastrophismwaslargelyreplacedbyuniformitarianism
Floodgeologyreplacedbymoderngeologyandstratigraphy
Neptunismreplacedbyplutonism
Thefollowingweresupersededbyplatetectonics:
ExpandingEarththeory(supersededbysubduction)
Geosynclinetheory
Thetheoryofcontinentaldriftwasincorporatedintoandimproveduponbyplatetectonics

Psychology
Purebehavioristexplanationsforlanguageacquisitionininfancy,falsifiedbythestudyofcognitive
adaptationsforlanguage.[2]

Medicine
Theoryofthefourbodilyhumours(seealsoFourtemperaments)
EclecticMedicineTransformedintoalternativemedicine,andisnolongerconsideredascientific
theory.
Physiognomy,relatedtophrenology,heldthatinnercharacterwasstronglycorrelatedwithphysical
appearance.

Obsoletebranchesofenquiry
Alchemy,whichledtothedevelopmentofchemistry
Astrology,whichledtothedevelopmentofastronomy
Phrenology,apseudoscience
Numerology,apseudoscience

Theoriesnowconsideredincomplete
Herearetheoriesthatarenolongerconsideredthemostcompleterepresentationofreality,butarestill
usefulinparticulardomainsorundercertainconditions.Forsometheoriesamorecompletemodelis
known,butinpracticalusethecoarserapproximationprovidesgoodresultswithmuchlesscalculation.
Atomicnucleidisintegrateathighenergy.
Newtonianmechanicswasextendedbythetheoryofrelativityandbyquantummechanics.
RelativisticcorrectionstoNewtonianmechanicsareunmeasurablysmallatvelocitiesnot
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approachingthespeedoflight,andquantumcorrectionsareusuallynegligibleatatomicorlarger
scalesNewtonianmechanicsistotallysatisfactoryinengineeringandphysicsundermost
circumstances.
Classicalelectrodynamicsisaverycloseapproximationtoquantumelectrodynamicsexceptatvery
smallscalesandlowfieldstrengths.
Bohrmodeloftheatomwasextendedbythequantummechanicalmodeloftheatom.
TheformulaknownasNewton'ssinesquarelawofairresistancefortheforceofafluidonabody,
thoughnotactuallyformulatedbyNewtonbutbyothersusingamethodofcalculationusedby
Newton,hasbeenfoundincorrectandnotusefulexceptforhighspeedhypersonicflow.[3]

Seealso
Scientifictheory
Philosophyofscience
Protoscience
Fringescience
Pathologicalscience
Paradigmshift
Historyofevolutionarythought
Creationevolutioncontroversy
Lists
Listofdiscreditedsubstances
Listoffamousdiscoveries
Listoffamousexperiments
Listoftopicscharacterizedaspseudoscience

References
1.DeLeon,ProfessorN."Dalton'sAtomicTheory".Chemistry101ClassNotes.IndianaUniversityNorthwest.
Retrieved26August2013.
2.Crain,StephenandDianeC.LilloMartin(1999).AnIntroductiontoLinguisticTheoryandLanguage
Acquisition.Oxford:Blackwell.
3.Aerodynamics:SelectedTopicsintheLightofTheirHistoricalDevelopment,bookbyTheodoreVonKarman,
1954,DoverPublications,p10andfollowingpages(https://books.google.com/books?
id=NcGWXoDw7c8C&pg=PA10)DetaileddiscussionofNewton'ssinesquarelaw,invalidityinthegeneralcase
andapplicabilityathighsupersonicspeeds.

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