The Scientific Revolution and the Emergence of Modern Science
Background to the Scientific Revolution
A. Late Medieval scholastic philosophers had advanced mathematical
and physical thinking in many ways
B. The subjection of these thinkers to a strict theological framework
and their unquestioning reliance on a few ancient authorities,
especially Aristotle & Galen, limited where they could go
C. Medieval scholars made use of Latin translations of Aristotle, Galen
& Ptolemy to develop many of their positions in the fields of
physics, medicine, & astronomy
D. Renaissance scientist mastered Greek which exposed them to
different works by past masters
E. Copernicus, founder of heliocentrism, found that Philolaus and a
number of ancients believed that the earth moved not the sun
F. Renaissance artists desire to imitate nature led them to rely upon a
close observation of nature which in turn impacted scientific study
G. The 15th & 16th centuries witnessed a proliferation of books
dedicated to machines & technology which espoused the belief that
innovation in techniques was necessary
H. The Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century was based upon the
intellectual and scientific accomplishments of previous centuries
I. The origins of the Scientific Revolution can be traced to the work of
a very small number of great European intellectuals
J. According to Da Vinci mathematics was the key to understanding
the nature of things
K. Scholars devoted to Hermeticism believed in seeing the world as a
living embodiment of divinity where humans could use mathematics
and magic to dominate nature
L. Possible influences and causes of the Scientific Revolution include:
mathematical and naturalistic skills of Renaissance artists, the
humanists rediscovery of Greek mathematicians and thinkers, and
the Hermetic belief in magic and alchemy
Toward a New Heaven: A Revolution in Astronomy
A. The greatest achievements in science during the 16th and 17th
Centuries came in astronomy, mechanics, and medicine
B. The Ptolemaic conception of the universe was also known as the
geocentric conception
C. Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
1. The general conception of the universe before Copernicus
was that the earth was the stationary center and heavenly
spheres orbited it
2. Born in Poland
3. Received a doctorate in canon law and studied in both
Poland and Italy
4. Focus was on mathematics and astronomy
5. Published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in
1543 which attacked the Ptolemaic concept of an earthcentered universe
6. Ideas of Copernicus were nearly as complicated as
a. using elaborate astronomical and mathematical
calculations Copernicus argued that the universe
consisted of eight spheres with the sun motionless in
the center
b. Planets revolved around sun and moon revolved
around earth
c. Ideas immediately condemned, especially by
Protestant leaders like Luther who condemned the
discovery as contrary to their notions of creation
D. Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
1. Danish nobleman
2. Outfitted castle with a library , observatory, and instruments
to more accurately observe astronomical sites. (Uraniborg)
E. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
1. Germany’s best-known astronomer
2. Used data to derive laws of planetary motion that confirmed
Copernicus’s heliocentric theory but that showed the orbits
were elliptical
3. Friend of Galileo and members together of a new European
scientific community maintaining contact through letters
and new publications
4. Ideas gained acceptance despite disproving the great
Aristotle’s conviction that the motion of planets was steady
and unchanging
F. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
1. Came from a lesser Pisan noble family (Italian)
2. Abandoned medicine for his true love, mathematics
3. Taught mathematics at prestigious university at Padua
4. Was first European to make systematic observations of the
heavens by means of a telescope
5. Through his observations, he concluded that planets were
not made of some perfect substance but had natural
properties similar to earth
6. Galileo’s The Starry Messenger (1610) probably did more to
make Europeans aware of the new picture of the universe
than the mathematical theories of Copernicus or Kepler
7. In The Starry Messenger, Galileo had revealed himself as a
firm proponent of Copernicus’s heliocentric system
(encouraged by Jesuits and Dominicans ~ Church
condemned him)
8. The Catholic Roman Inquisition attacked Galileo for his
scientific ideas with encouragement of the Dominican and
Jesuits orders of the church pledged to defend ancient
Aristotelian ideas and Catholic orthodoxy
9. Unphased by condemnation, Galileo published his most
famous work, Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems:
Ptolemaic and Corpernican (1632)~ written in Italian for
greater effect
10. Dialogue displayed further support for ideas of Copernicus
11. Catholic Church’s Roman Inquisition ordered him to recant
in a public trial and humiliation
12. Spent last eight years of his life under house arrest in
Florence where he studied the principle of motion
a. Stressed principle of inertia
b. If a uniform force were applied to an object, it would move
at an accelerated speed rather than a constant speed
13. Condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition seriously
hampered further scientific work in Italy
G. Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
1. Born in little English village of Woolsthorpe
2. studied mathematics at Cambridge
3. from 1684 to 1686, he wrote Mathematical Principles of
Natural Philosophy (aka Principia) which demonstrated
through his rules of reasoning that the universe was a
regulated machine operating according to universal laws
[Written in LATIN—one of the last major European works to
be written in Latin]
4. although a great scientist, he was also intensely interested
in the OCCULT; considered himself a representative of the
Hermetic tradition
5. Newton’s mathematical discoveries included the calculus, a
mathematical means of measuring rates of change
6. Newton defined the basic concepts of mechanics by
elaborating on the laws of motion:
a. every object continues in a state of rest or uniform
motion in a straight line unless deflected by a force
b. the rate of change of motion of an object is
proportional to the force acting upon it
c. to every action there is always an equal and opposite
7. Newton’s universal law of gravity proved that through its
mathematical proof it could explain all motion in the
8. Newton’s ideas were readily accepted in England, but it
took much of the 18th Century before his ideas were
accepted on the rest of the continent
9. only English scientist buried at Westminster Abbey
Advances in Medicine
A. Medicine also experienced a transformation during this era
B. Galen’s influence on the medieval medical world was pervasive in
anatomy, physiology, and disease
C. Treatment of disease was highly influenced by Galen’s doctrine of
four bodily humors: blood, yellow bile, phlegm, black bile
D. Three figures are associated with changes in medicine in the 16th
and 17th Centuries:
1. Paracelsus (1493-1541)
a. born Philippus Aureolus von Hohenheim in
b. associated with the diagnosis and treatment of
c. revolutionized medicine by advocating the chemical
philosophy of medicine
2. Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564)
a. best known for his book On the Fabric of the
Human Body (1543)
1. presented a careful examination of the
individual organs and the general
structure of the human body
2. his hands-on approach advocated in book
helped overthrow some of Galen’s most
glaring errors
b. still clung to some of Galen’s incorrect ideas on
blood flow
3. William Harvey (1578-1657)
a. English scientist who studied at Cambridge and at
b. His book, On the Motion of the Heart and Blood
(1628) demolished Galen’s idea that the liver was
the beginning point of blood circulation
c. Harvey’s theory of the circulation of the blood laid
the foundation for modern physiology
Women in the Origins of Modern Science
A. During the Middle Ages, except for members of religious orders,
women who sought a life of learning were severely hampered by the
traditional attitude that a woman’s proper role was as a daughter,
wife, and mother
B. During the 14th and 15th centuries learned men began encouraging
women to read and study classical Christian texts
C. In a similar way to how women were drawn to humanism, women
were drawn to the Scientific Revolution
D. Opportunities for women as well as alternatives to formal
humanistic education could often be found in aristocratic and
princely courts and in artisan workshops
E. Most women involved in the Scientific Revolution were from the
F. Examples of women taking part in the Scientific Revolution include:
1. Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)
a. Duchess of Newcastle (English)
b. Participated in her day’s scientific debates
c. Wrote Observations upon Experimental Philosophy
and Grounds of Natural Philosophy
d. Attacked the belief that humans through science were
masters of nature
e. Due to gender, she was excluded from membership in
the Royal Society
2. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
a. accomplished entomologist
b. wrote Wonderful Metamorphosis and Special
Nourishment of Caterpillars
c. major work was Metamorphosis of the Insects of
3. Maria Winkelmann (1670-1720)
a. famous German astronomer
b. married the leading German astronomer of the time,
Gottfried Kirch
c. became husband’s assistant at Berlin’s Academy of
Science observatory
d. denied official post at Berlin Academy because of
gender/lack of degree
G. The overall effect of the Scientific Revolution on the argument about
women was to generate facts about differences between men and
women that were used to prove male dominance (EX: Spinoza—
thought women were “naturally” inferior)
Toward a New Earth: Descartes, Rationalism, and a New View of
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
A. born into a family of lower French nobility
B. considered the father of modern rationalism
C. wrote Discourse on Method (1637) that expounded his theories
about the universe
D. his philosophy stressed a separation of mind and matter
E. believed that the world could be understood by the same principles
inherent in mathematical thinking
F. books were placed on the Papal Index of Forbidden Books lists and
were condemned by many Protestant religious leaders
Scientific Method
A. The development of a scientific method was crucial to the evolution
of science in the modern world
B. Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
1. Englishman with few scientific credentials
2. important to the Scientific Revolution for his emphasis on
empirical, experimental observation
3. rejected the ideas of Copernicus & Kepler and
misunderstood Galileo
4. most important work was the unfinished The Great
5. Believed that carefully organized experiments and
thorough, systematic observations, led to correct
generalizations being developed
6. the scientific method was valuable in answering the
question “how” something works, and its success in doing
this gave others much confidence in the method
Science and Religion in the 17th Century
A. Organized religions in the 17th Century rejected scientific
discoveries that conflicted with the Christian view of the world
B. Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677)
1. Dutch philosopher who grew up in Amsterdam
2. excommunicated by his Dutch synagogue and ostracized
by major Dutch churches
3. Spinoza was fiercely independent, refusing an appointment
to the University of Heidelberg for fear of having to sacrifice
some of his views
4. was influenced by Descartes, but saw no separation
between mind and matter
5. believed women were “naturally” inferior to men
6. believed the failure to understand God led to people using
nature for their own self-interest
7. major work was published after his death, Ethics
Demonstrated in the Geometrical Manner
C. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
1. brilliant mathematician and accomplished scientist
2. French scientist who sought to keep science and religion
3. invented a calculating machine
4. major work was Pensees (Thoughts)
5. in Pensees, he attempted to convince rationalists that
Christianity was valid by appealing to their reason and
6. believed humans could not understand infinity, only God
7. failed in his goal to unite Christianity and science
The Spread of Scientific Knowledge
A. The first of the scientific societies appeared in Italy
B. Concerning the first important scientific societies, the French
Academy differed from the English Royal Society in the former’s
government support and control
C. During the 17th Century, royal and princely patronage of science
became an international phenomenon
D. The scientific societies of early modern Europe established the first
scientific journals appearing regularly
E. Science became an integral part of Western culture in the 18th
Century because it offered a new means to make profits and
maintain social order
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