Conditions during the Renaissance (1300 – 1600) led to a scientific revolution. Scholars started questioning ideas and religion.

  • The Roots of Modern Science

    Prior to the scientific revolution, scholars strictly followed the works of ancient Greek/Roman authors and the bible. Almost no one challenged the scientific ideas of ancient thinkers and the church.

    • The Medieval View
      • The medieval view was that the earth was the center of the universe, and everything else moved around it in circular paths. This made sense because everything seems to move around the earth.
      • This theory was called the geocentric theory and came from Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. Also, Christianity teaches that God placed earth in the center of the universe, a special place for life to grow.
    • A New Way of Thinking
      • Starting in the 1500s, some scholars began challenging classical ideas and the church. These scholars started the Scientific Revolution. This led to a new way to think about the world and was based on observation and questioning of traditional beliefs.
      • The combination of new discoveries and circumstances led to the rapid spread of the Scientific Revolution. European explorers found new countries and became aware that there could be more truths in the world. The printing press also helped spread controversial ideas.
      • The exploration also led to advancements in astronomy and mathematics because navigators needed to determine their location and navigate.
  • A Revolutionary Model of the Universe

    Astronomy was one of the first fields where scholars began to challenge accepted thinking. This began when some scholars began to doubt the geocentric theory.

    • The Heliocentric Theory
      • Even though first appearances seem to confirm geocentric theory, detailed observations of planetary movements helped convince Copernicus that the planets revolved around the sun.
      • Copernicus’s heliocentric theory contradicted many religious views. Therefore, he was afraid to publish his findings until a year before his death.
      • Over time, other scientists advanced on his foundation, before Johannes Kepler used math to prove Copernicus’s basic ideas. Kepler showed that planets followed elliptical orbits around the sun.
    • Galileo’s Discoveries
      • Galileo, an Italian scientist built his own telescope and watched the skies. He published a book describing his observations.
      • His observations included the facts that Jupiter has four moons, the sun has dark spots, and that the moon’s surface is uneven. His observations further supported Copernicus’s theories.
    • Conflict with the Church
      • Galileo’s discoveries made the churches nervous because they conflicted with church teachings. If people started to have doubt in the church, they could start doubting other aspects.
      • The Catholic Church warned Galileo against supporting Copernicus in 1616. However, he continued studying privately. Finally, in 1632, he published a book discussing Copernicus (heliocentric) and Ptolemy (geo-centric). However, this book appeared to favor Copernicus’s theory. Galileo was summoned by the pope.
      • In court, Galileo was forced to kneel and agree that Copernicus was wrong.
      • Galileo lived the rest of his life under house arrest. However, his ideas still spread.
  • The Scientific Method

    The revolution that Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo started grew into a new way of looking at science, called the scientific method. This method was a procedure for testing ideas.

    You start by thinking of a question, forming a hypothesis, and then testing it.

    • Bacon and Descartes
      • Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes were two important thinkers who helped develop the Scientific Method.
      • Francis Bacon was an English writer who believed in experimenting before drawing conclusions, the experimental method.
      • Rene Descartes of France used logical reasoning. He doubted everything until proven.
      • Modern scientific methods are based on their ideas.
  • Newton Explains the Law of Gravity

    In the mid-1600s, the scientific accomplishments had taken over the old views of the world. Now, Isaac Newton attempted to combine their breakthroughs.

    Newton thought that all objects are affected by the same forces. He came up with the law of universal gravitation – every object attracts every other object.

  • The Scientific Revolution Spreads

    While Galileo and other scientists studied the skies, other scientists studied nature on Earth.

    • Scientific Instruments
      • Scientists began inventing new instruments for use with the scientific method. Zacharias Janssen (Dutch) invented a microscope, Evangelista Torricelli invented a mercury barometer, and Gabriel Fahrenheit invented a mercury thermometer. (Anders Celsius also did this)
    • Medicine and the Human Body
      • Andreas Vesalius, a Flemish physician dissected human corpses and published his findings. His publication included detailed drawings of the human body.
      • Later, Edward Jenner, a British physician, invented a vaccine for smallpox, using germs from cowpox.
    • Discoveries in Chemistry
      • Robert Boyle started using scientific method in chemistry. He proposed everything was made of smaller particles. Boyle’s law was another law describing the relationships between volume, temperature, and pressure of gasses.
      • The scientific method soon moved into other areas of life including philosophies and learning.1