Scientific Models
Book, 2016

A zebrafish, the hull of a miniature ship, a mathematical equation and a food chain - what do these things have in common? They are examples of models used by scientists to isolate and study particular aspects of the world around us. This book begins by introducing the concept of a scientific model from an intuitive perspective, drawing parallels to mental models and artistic representations. It then recounts the history of modelling from the 16th century up until the present day. The iterative process of model building is described and discussed in the context of complex models with high predictive accuracy versus simpler models that provide more of a conceptual understanding. To illustrate the diversity of opinions within the scientific community, we also present the results of an interview study, in which ten scientists from different disciplines describe their views on modelling and how models feature in their work. Lastly, it includes a number of worked examples that span different modelling approaches and techniques. It provides a comprehensive introduction to scientific models and shows how models are constructed and used in modern science. It also addresses the approach to, and the culture surrounding modelling in different scientific disciplines. It serves as an inspiration for model building and also facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations by showing how models are used in different scientific fields. The book is aimed primarily at students in the sciences and engineering, as well as students at teacher training colleges but will also appeal to interested readers wanting to get an overview of scientific modelling in general and different modelling approaches in particular.


Philip Gerlee

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics

University of Gothenburg

Torbjörn Lundh

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Mathematics

University of Gothenburg


Subject Categories

Evolutionary Biology

History of Ideas

Cell Biology


Computational Mathematics


Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology

Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences


Other Mathematics


Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Probability Theory and Statistics

Climate Research

Organic Chemistry

Mathematical Analysis

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (2010-2017)


Building Futures (2010-2018)



Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)

Materials Science

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship


Basic sciences

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work





More information