Concept of the Scientific Revolution

<Questions to guide the research>
  1. What was the background which led to the Scientific Revolution?
  2. What was the significance/legacy of the Scientific Revolution?
  3. What happened during the Scientific Revolution?
  4. Who were notable figures during the Scientific Revolution? (What they did & their impact on the world)
  5. What followed after the Scientific Revolution?

What is a Revolution?
  • revolutio = “a turn around” (Latin)
  • Two types of revolutions given by Aristotle
    • Complete change from one constitution to another
    • Modification of an existing constitution
  • varies widely in terms of methods, duration, and motivating ideology
  • results in major cultural, economical and socio-political changes
  • General Definition
    • a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence.
    • a sudden, complete or marked change in something.

Scientific Revolution

Renaissance - Trigger for the Scientific Revolution
  • During the Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman texts were rediscovered and also Arabs brought those ancient Greek and Roman texts to Europe via trade.
  • People developed desire for learning in many areas of studies including natural philosophy (science) and theology.
  • People began to challenge the medieval assumptions about human beings and nature.
  • For example, the great philosophy of Plato was seized on as an alternative to medieval scholasticism (an attempt to reconcile the Bible with the Greek and Roman texts: It inclined towards Christianity instead of true Science).
  • The great strength of Plato’s philosophy lay in his belief that one must look beyond the appearance of things to an invisible reality that is simple, rational, and mathematically explainable.
  • Plato’s search for this fundamental reality thus influenced thinkers of the Scientific Revolution. They found inspiration in the Platonic tradition that nature’s truths apply universally and possess the elegance and simplicity of mathematics. [Renaissance Platonism]
  • With this impulse to mathematicise the nature came the desire to describe it accurately.
  • Thus, in addition to the Renaissance humanists, Renaissance art, which aspired to depict the human body and the natural world as exactly as possible, is an antecedent of the Scientific Revolution.

Enrichment 1 - More on the Renaissance
Enrichment 2 - Lecture 1: Renaissance Portraits
Enrichment 3 - The 12th Century Renaissance

Famous Renaissance Humanists
  • Michelangelo - drew the fresco, “The Last Judgement” at Sistine Chapel, Vatican City & sculptured “David”
  • Raphael - drew the fresco, “School of Athens”
  • Leonardo da Vinci - drew “Mona Lisa”
  • They were all great artists, sculptors, architects and scientist who wanted to show off their skills and Human Excellence.
  • The Renaissance gave people a new idea of human excellence. They came to see man as a creature of greater potential here on earth than had been thought of in Middle Ages.

Scientific Revolution
  • Scientific Reovlution: a period when new ideas in physics, astronomy, biology, human anatomy, chemistry, and other sciences led to a rejection of doctrines that had prevailed starting in Ancient Greece and continuing through the Middle Ages, and
  • laid the foundation of modern science.
  • The study of classical teachings during the Renaissance period contributed to the Scientific Revolution. People began to observe and understand the world (essence of Renaissance Humanism).
  • 2 influential works which started the Scientific Revolution
    • Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres)
    • Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human body)

More on the Causes and Impact of the Scientific Revolution

<Causes of the Scientific Revolution>

Copernicus’ Heliocentric Theory

●      Nicolaus Copernicus revised Ptolemy’s concept of a universe by placing the sun in the middle of the circling planets.

●      This theory was to have far reaching consequences and brought about accusations of heresy as placing the sun at the center of the universe upset the fragile hierarchy between heaven and earth that was ingrained the doctrine of the Catholic Church. A Sun-centered universe did not make sense if one took the words of the Bible literally.

●      This theory was “the first shot fired” in the scientific revolution, as Galileo continued on Copernicus’ work after he died. The ideas caused a stir and people realized that the heliocentric theory was indeed valid. (Traditional doctrines vs Observations)

●      Heliocentrism essentially altered man’s traditional way of thinking about the universe and also laid the foundation for more upheavals of other doctrines.

Demand for Trade

●      By the end of the century the focus of growth had begun to shift north to France and England. In England, especially, economic dependence on far-flung colonies in North America, Africa and Asia created an urgent need for reliable knowledge about navigation.

●      The demand for navigation spurred many discoveries and new laws.

●      By utilizing trade routes, oversea specimens aroused people’s interest in different worlds as well, and encouraged reading up of other continents.

Invention of the Printing Press

●      The invention of mechanical movable type printing led to an explosion of printing activities in Europe within only a few decades.

●      This allowed for rapid dissemination of knowledge to the masses, and also allowed easy accessibility of books to all. 

●      More importantly, it established a community of scientists who could easily communicate their discoveries through widely disseminated journals, helping to bring on the scientific revolution. For example, there was rapid exchange of ideas among scientists in the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge in the 16th century. Once a scientist published his findings, he would receive a huge number replies to his findings from other scientists. A Baconian community of scientists sharing their knowledge was slowly taking shape during this period of time.

The Renaissance

●      The Renaissance was a cultural movement that revived an interest in learning among people.

●      Renaissance scholars were most interested in recovering and studying Latin and Greek literary, historical, and oratorical texts. This led to a flourish of knowledge that would carry on into the Scientific Revolution.

●      The Renaissance also brought forth Humanism, where people focused on the interests of men and thus believed that there are no limits to human accomplishments. This was a precursor to changing their perceptions and abandoning medieval ideas.

Enrichment - The 12th Century Renaissance

<Impacts of the Scientific Revolution>

Change in Perception and how men viewed nature

●      The new ideas brought forth in the Scientific Revolution (Heliocentrism, Netwon’s Laws of Motions etc) revolutionized the way men used to think. Men abandoned medieval ways of thinking and adopted the modern thought process

●      Altered humanity’s understanding of itself and the universe

Established a base for modern science

●      Many revolutionary scientific discoveries

Replacement of Natural laws

●      Geocentrism

●      Impetus Theory

●      Galen’s concept of venous and arterial systems

●      Aristotelian physics

●      Aristotelian concept of matter being made up of four elements

The Rise of the Scientific Method

●      A systematic interpretation of experiments

●      Objective and needed empirical proof

Decline in Religious beliefs

●      Before the Scientific Revolution, the masses believed in religion and God whole-heartedly. However, the scientific theories such as Heliocentrism devalued the words of the Bible and made people lose belief in the words of the Bible and religion as a whole.

Inventions and discoveries

●      Discoveries in physics, the major one being the laws of motion (discovered by Galileo and Newton)

●      Scientific method – a new way of scientific methodology

●      Magnetism and Electricity

●      Heliocentrism

●      Planetary motion

●      Law of universal gravitation

●      Deductive and inductive reasoning

●      Laws for falling bodies

●      Circulation of blood and assembly of the first human skeleton (by Andreas Vesalius)

●      Creation of powerful lenses for biology and astronomy

Contributed by Neo Wei Bin (RI Secondary Batch of 2012)

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