There were so many ideas that so many talented individuals combined to create a movement that swept across the world from Europe all the way to America throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many scientists of this time were trying to achieve their idea of having a world without a social order, a higher level of class, and no institutionalized cruelty. This era became known as The Scientific Revolution. Scientists were opening new doors and making remarkable discoveries in technology, mathematics, medicine, astronomy. It was during this time scientists were examining old and new theories from past cultures and ages. The scientists of this time went beyond simple observation. They wanted to know nature and the world’s deepest secrets and in order to do that, they had to experiment. Experiments in this time were vital to science so that they could explain why nature and the world as we know it does what it does. Not all were even right but nonetheless they were exploring new ideas and taking risks which in turn provided us with some of the most important laws and theories that have changed the world we live in and continue to change the world to this very day. These scientists have become famous for their discoveries and for giving mankind different ideas and knowledge that in some sense have became world changing. I am going to go into depth about the scientists of this time and how their ideas created the legacy that is known as The Scientific Revolution.
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Scrupulous observations and a willingness to question accepted beliefs I feel would describe Nicolaus Copernicus. He was a polish priest and an astronomer who for 25 years studied planetary movements and created his own theories on how the stars, earth, and the other planets revolved around the sun. His theory was called the heliocentric or sun-centered theory and was pretty serious for him considering it challenged the religious view at the time. Thought he was not the first who introduced this theory, he was able to work out this theory in full mathematical detail. Copernicus had integrated physics with the demands of astronomy and was the first person in history to achieve completing a complete and general solar system combining physics, mathematics, and cosmology. In doing this, he motivated other scientists to attempt to perfect and his ideas paved roads and paths to new more elaborate ideas. Copernicus had never published his findings and theories because of how it challenged the church’s ideas on the location of earth in the heavens. It wasn’t until right before his death, his apprentice convinced him to publish what was called On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. This publication was described as “a revolution making rather than a revolutionary text” (Kagan, Ozmet, Turner 408). Copernicus’ theories and ideas set the example and started the beginning of a revolution of ideas and theories that we still carry with us today.
Copernicus’ work inspired another scientist to continue researching new ideas. Tycho Brache and his assistant Johannes Kepler continued to further investigate and perfect Copernicus’ ideas. Kepler believed that certain mathematical laws promote planetary motion. One of his laws showed that the planets revolved around the sun in elliptical orbits instead of circles. Kepler’s laws showed that Copernicus was onto something with his ideas. Once Brache passed, Kepler continued to his work to prove that we lived in a sun-centered universe. He then made a new model that would abandon Copernicus’ circular components and instead he would adopt a new theory. This model was the first astronomically that actually showed motion in the direction the planets were moving. They weren’t circular like previous theories, his ideas made them elliptical. This scientific law that each planet’s orbit is an eclipse with the sun has made a huge impact on today’s aerospace program around the world. Today Kepler’s law is used on all unmanned aircraft from the Sputnik (our first artificial satellite) to COMSAT, INTELSAT, NAVASTAR.
After Kepler’s time came Galileo Galilei in the 1600s. He was absolutely brilliant and earned himself many nicknames like “hero of modern science”, “father of modern science, “father of modern astronomy”, or “father of modern mathematics”. Galileo’s theories were based on real experimentation not philosophical ideals. One of his first experiments where with a pendulum. He noticed that when its swinging it gradually slows down. Each time it swings, it covers less area but always takes the same amount of time for each swing. He concluded that this would be a good timing mechanism for a clock or even to count peoples heartbeats. Galileo proved Aristotle’s theory that objects that are heavier fall faster wrong. He climbed to the top of a very tall building and dropped cannonballs of all different weights from it just to test Aristotle’s theory. He found that the theory was incorrect and that the balls all hit the ground at the very same time no matter what their weight was. In doing this experiment he was able to get answers faster than he would have if he had just observed random objects falling in everyday life. Galileo was most known for his improvements of the telescope and the discoveries he made when viewing the planets (1609). He saw the stars, mountains on the moon, blemishes on the sun, and even was able to see the moons orbiting around jupiter. It was then he realized that what he was seeing was way more than anyone had ever explained or seen. It was another one of Aristotle’s theories that the moons and stars were smooth and perfect but what Galileo seen was contradictory. He seen they were very uneven and rough. He published these observations and theories in a series of newsletters to share with the public. They were called Starry Messenger (1610) and Letters on Sunspots (1613). Galileo supported the ideas and theories of Copernicus. Even though by this time he was considered a prodigy of science the Catholic Church had a serious issue with him backing Copernicus’s theories. They had warned him but he decided to silently continue his studies. Until 1632 when he publishes his book, Dialogues concerning the Two Great World Systems that it very clearly shows that he indeed supported the theories he denied. He lived on house till his death in 1642, but his books and ideas still spread throughout the world.
There were still questions that 17th century scientists couldn’t figure out about the planets and how they moved about like they did. Isaac Newton answered these by bringing together all of their ideas, theories, and breakthroughs and put them all into one theory of motion. Kepler’s ideas were about how the planet’s orbited around the sun, Galileo has studied the motion of pendulums, so Newton’s theory was that this same single force controlled all the motions and matter on Earth and in outer space. In discovering this, another theory of Aristotles was proven wrong, but his ideas were never bad in the sense that they made other scientists think and further their studies. Which is exactly what happened here. This discovery of Newton’s became known as The Law of Universal Gravitation. It meant that everything in the world was attracted to every other object. The strength of the attraction depends on how big something is or how close. This whole theory explains a lot about how the planets orbit around the sun. Newton went on to publish Principia de Mathematica. It is said that this book was the greatest works in the history of science (qtd. in “Isaac Newton and the Scientific Revolution” 2012). In this book he talks about his laws of motion and his theory of gravity. Newton has really helped life today with his laws of motion. He gave the world a mathematical explanation of gravity, he taught us how forces and motion all relate, and he gifted the world with laws of motion that we commonly use today. Have you ever been on an airplane? Have you ever watched a spaceship shoot off into space? All of these things happening coincide with Newton’s laws of motion. His theories have become such an important staple even in our everyday lifes. I think Newton’s ideas and theories are what represent the highest level of achievements of the Scientific Revolution. He is an exact example of why this time period has such a legacy and importance.
These scientists all contributed amazing ideas and theories. They used each others ideas as learning foundations for their own ideas and have given the world some of the most useful scientific laws and knowledge. These men all together developed a modern approach to science using logical procedure for gathering and testing ideas. This became known as the “Scientific Method”. The method starts by having a question or problem that you would get by having an observation. Then the scientist would form a hypothesis (initial idea), and then they would test this in an experiment. In the final part of the process, the scientists would analyze and interpret their results to reach a final conclusion. This is when you can either say if the hypothesis is right or wrong. This method is used all around the world. From grade school science class all the way to college science courses.
Along with the scientists of this time, there were also talented philosophers during this time providing ideas and challenging the times. Francis Bacon had a very strong interest in science. He thought scientists would generate knowledge that would improve people’s lives if they had a greater understanding of our world. He always pushed scientists to experiment and take in the world, gather information, and then they could draw observations and conclusions about all the information they found. This method is called “empiricism”. It has become something that is now used throughout the world by scientists.
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Renee Descartes was a philosopher who relied on mathematics and logic. He wasn’t big on using experimentation. This was a new approach to things. Descartes developed analytical geometry. It linked the two and he thought it provided a new approach for scientific research. He also believed everything should be questioned until proven to be true. Descartes is known by saying “I think therefore I am.” Modern scientific methods have been based on the ideas of Bacon and Descartes. It is through their thoughts and ideas that we have achieved a more reasonable understanding of our world today.
Thomas Hobbes was said to be the most original philosopher of the 17th century (Kagan, Ozment, and Turner 415). He had a darker view of human nature. In a nutshell he thought all men were out for themselves when it comes down to it. He saw things much differently than most people in that time. His thoughts brought him to the conclusion that human beings only exist to meet the needs of everyday life. He felt that giving yourself to an absolute government was the only way to protect yourself and your rights.
John Locke’s thoughts were much brighter. He was a very influential man because of his thoughts politically and philosophically in the 17th century (Kagan, Ozment, and Turner. 416). The Declaration of Independance actually used some of his ideas. He said that “the kind of government the people should have must be determined by human experience and reason, not the God given authority of kings” (Henderson and Yount 40). It is these ideas that proved Locke to be one of the most influencial thinkers of this time. His works really influenced political philosophies of this time too. His writing, Letter Concerning Toleration gave people a reason to have religious tolerance. He argued in his writings that human beings cannot alone evaluate the real claims of different religious standpoints in religion. He felt that if you enforce one single religion it wouldn’t have the desired effect because you cannot force someone to have a true belief in something. Lastly if this was made to happen it would just mess society up more. Locke’s beliefs were different than that of Hobbes. He thought humans had reason and even tolerance, though he did also agree that it was human nature to be selfish and when money was created, this was proven.
It is because of the legacy the Scientific Revolution carries that other scientists continue to study, improve theories, and uncover secrets that our Earth has to offer. The scientific method has became important in many different situations. Scientists to this day continue to develop new tools and theories that originated from the scientists and philosophers of this time. We have gained the first microscope during this time, the first mercury barometer, also the first thermometer. All of which we still use. In modern times so many improvements have been achieved in medicine, the human body, and in the natural world because of the ideas during the scientific revolution.
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