Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution, a time period between 1500-1750, became a major turning point in history marked by the enormous discoveries that radically changed Western views. The reason this is called a revolution is in the notion that the perceived world was not as accurate as it was believed to be and discoverers dared to oppose the current norms. The ruling authority, the Catholic church, at the time rejected any contrary beliefs to their fixed set of systematic faith. Upon discovery of astronomical revealings, such as Heliocentric theory, names such as Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei shook the foundation and challenged the blind ignorance of the church authority. (Backman, 463-466)
Oh the joy of Geocentrism! First known belief of the human race among the stars was coined by Cladius Ptolemy, a second century astronomer and mathematician. The takeaway belief happened to be earth as the center of the entire known universe. This means that the sun and each planet revolves around the earth. Carried on 13 centuries later, the same belief governed the church and the free world. Any contradicting belief to the geocentric theory was viewed by the Catholic church as opposing to scripture, therefore, heretical and punishable to the highest degree. This led many to keep findings that contradicted geocentrism under severe wraps, especially to the church. (

The heliocentric method astonished current belief systems of the early 16th century thinkers. Stating, the earth revolves around the sun as opposed to earlier beliefs of the earth being the center of the universe. The founder of this theory is a man named Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), a mathematician and astronomer famous for revolutionizing the perception of modern astronomy. A humble and intelligent man, Copernicus did not push his findings on the church, in fact he held back his beliefs until further research had been completed. He did reveal the findings in his book "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres" upon his death, but again, never pushed his beliefs, only "argued that his model conforms to the available data more precisely than did earlier models." (Backman, 466)

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was a world renowned astronomer, mathematician, and physicist. He was a devout Catholic, although his findings per the telescope he engineered proved to be in direct opposition with the church's beliefs. Galileo discovered that moons orbited around Jupiter. This doesn't seem like such a remarkable statement, but at the time when the church believed everything revolved around the earth, this find was ground-breaking. Keeping his findings low-key, it wasn't until 1611 that "the city of Rome gave Galileo a triumphant welcome." His achievements directly contradicted the known belief, and because of his strong devotion to his opinions, many didn't approve of his perceptions.
The inquisition first established by Pope Lucius III in the 12th century was "taken over as an institution of government" in the 16th century. States in France, Portugal and Spain took control to use it for fear tactics and political control. What was happening again is the separation of church and state. The church was losing authority power among the people toward the 17th century. Especially for the Protestants in the Protestant Reformation, they declared separation from the Catholic church. The inquisition took on a new target, "false converts from Judaism and Islam and advocates of the new science." To help the prosecution of these new thinkers the states took on the authority role against the church. One of the most well known attacks was against Galileo, first in 1616 with a warning and eventually was sentenced to house arrest and penance. His belief that cause such a ruckus was "The separation of science from religion, to Galileo, was not a divorce. It was an annulment." (Backman, 469-471)
As science advances and achievements in Medicine begin to shape the new world. A new form of medicine began to spring up, the art of dissection. William Harvey in the 17th century made great discoveries because of the new punishment system. Around this time, the courts would sentence criminals such as thieves, murderers, or forgers to the cutting table. An absolute grotesque kind of sentence, going so far as to dissecting humans while they are still alive. Many people expressed concern that "scientific knowledge can come at too high a price, ethically speaking, for the benefits it brings." Although dissections were not a new practice, the church did not condone any intrusion of the body after death. But dissection became very common and even taught in schools and available to the public. (Backman, 476-478)
The scientific method, taught in every high school science class, is a method of "inductive reasoning through observation and experimental research and deductive reasoning from self-evident principles." Meaning it is a process to test suggested ideas. The method helped to formulate a basis for testing hypothesis's repeatedly, so that the test can be replicated in the same manner as at first. Results from the tests are compared to the hypothesis first stated. If they do not add up, additional research is needed. The cycle is organic and ever changing, yet always within the framework listed in the picture. Through this sort of process we can begin to test what is true and what is false. (Backman 482) (
Sir Francis Bacon (1516-1626) a lawyer turned royal administrator turned Lord Chancellor and to finally work his way to his fathers position as Keeper of the Great Seal for Elizabeth I. He was well known for his great and cautious explanation of the scientific method. Meaning he advocated the incremental approach of "observation after observation, all of them subjected to repeated testing to assure accuracy." He identified 4 fallacies within the human makeup calling them illusions that skew the perception of the individual. He assumed to know that scientific thinking built upon itself although he never actually participated in the science field. He was more accustomed to "telling other people how to do their jobs." Shows the true heart of the wealthy... (483-484)
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was another advocate to the scientific method as well as Francis Bacon. He envisioned logic as the end all be all to science and any experiment that took place. His greatest achievements were in Mathematics and Philosophy, especially his book "Discourse on Method (1637). The book outlined a preface for his upcoming scientific papers and consisted of a mix between science and philosophy. "Descartes begins with a distrust of the senses" and believes that because senses can fail, they are flawed in helping to gather concrete data for science. He claims that truth, if attainable, will be derived from a "different source than empirical observation." His conception of truth lies within a set of logical laws that the mind can capture and that governed the physical world. Scientific investigation then seeks to gather these truths and make them known. (Backman, 485-487)
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is by far the greatest scientist of the Western civilization. Coined as the first to discover, "that light can be broken into the spectrum of colors and has the properties of a wave... integral and differential calculus." His discoveries became that of history making when he revolutionized Descartes work and brought it to life. One of his accomplishments was the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy published in 1687. Although, the most noted discovery is that of the Theory of Universal Gravitation. The theory consisted of permanent ratios that provide explanations for physical actions "as simple as an apple's fall from a tree". The laws Descartes spoke of in his writings, Newton was able to begin to discover and make intelligible. New methods and great feats were being transformed and unearthed during the scientific revolution, setting the foundation for the world we know today. (Backman, 487-488)


Created with images by tonynetone - "Earth" • skeeze - "world earth planet" • tonynetone - "Galileo" • Son of Groucho - "Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.