The Renaissance was a cultural movement which saw a flowering of education, literature, art and sciences. The Renaissance saw an inflow of new ideas and new practices and left a profound cultural legacy.
The Renaissance was enabled by scientific discoveries, most notably, the development of the printing press by J. Gutenberg, which allowed the mass production of books. The heart of the Renaissance is considered to have started in Florence during the early 14th Century. This was helped by financial and cultural support from the dominant Medici family, and later from the Vatican.
Great Artists of the Renaissance
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) Leonardo was the supreme Renaissance painter, scientist, inventor, and polymath. Da Vinci is widely regarded as one of the greatest minds the world has ever produced. He was interested in everything from music to art and science. Da Vinci was an immense creative force at the start of the Renaissance period. Amongst his many works was the immortal painting – The Mona Lisa.
Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) Renaissance sculptor, painter and architect. Michelangelo’s artistic endeavours embodied the spirit of the Renaissance. His greatest works include the statue of David and his painting of the Sistine Chapel.
Raphael (1483 – 1520) Italian painter. One of the three members of the High Renaissance trinity. Raphael was asked by Pope Julius II to work on rooms in the Vatican at the same time as Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel. Raphael was known for the perfection and grace of his classical interpretations.
Titian (1488-1576) An Italian painter, Titian was a member of the 16th Century Venetian school. He was a prolific and versatile artist who experimented with new forms of art, such as subtle variations in colour.
Donatello (1386-1466) An Italian painter and sculptor. Donatello was a key figure in the early Florence Renaissance. Major works include David, Virgin and Child with Four Angels, St Mark and The Feast of Herod.
Political Thinkers of the Renaissance
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) Machiavelli was an Italian writer, historian, diplomat and humanist. Moving in political circles, he created a new branch of political science based on humanist principles. His greatest work, The Prince is an expose of political machinations.
Thomas More (1478-1535) More was an English statesman who wrote an ideal political system, Utopia. He was considered a social philosopher and Renaissance humanist. He was executed for refusing to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church of England.
Nicholaus Copernicus (1473- 1543) A Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric view of the universe. His teaching that the earth revolved around the sun placed him in opposition to the established teachings of the church. He was also an astronomer, physician, economist, diplomat, classics scholar and jurist.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) Swiss-German physician and leading health reformer. Paracelsus founded the discipline of toxicology and pioneered the use of chemicals in treating patients. He rebelled against the medical orthodoxy of the medieval ages, emphasising practical experience rather than ancient scriptures. Paracelsus helped transform health care and was often considered the “Luther of Medicine” for his willingness to overturn conventional orthodoxy.
Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) English philosopher, statesman and scientist. Bacon is considered the father of empiricism for his work and advocacy of scientific method and methodical scientific inquiry in investigating scientific phenomena.
Galileo (1564 – 1642) Creating one of the first modern telescopes, Galileo revolutionised our understanding of the world supporting the work of Copernicus. His work Two New Sciences laid the groundwork for the science of Kinetics and strength of materials.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German scientist who played a key role in the 17th Century scientific revolution. He created the laws of planetary motion, which influenced Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation.
Theology and Philosophy
Martin Luther (1483-1546) Leader of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther wrote 95 theses attacking the church, such as criticising the belief sin could be mitigated by paying money to the church. Martin Luther was ex-communicated from the Catholic church and was a key figure in the new Protestant religion.
Erasmus (1466-1536) Erasmus was a Catholic theologian who has also been called the ‘Prince of the Humanists’. He was willing to raise questions about the teachings of the church and not to rely on blind dogma. Erasmus was critical of the abuses of the church and advocated reform from within the church. He was an early advocate of religious tolerance and advocated a middle path between the Catholic and Protestant movements.
William Shakespeare (1564- 1616) English poet and playwright. Famous works include Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice and Hamlet.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Famous people of the Renaissance”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 6th June 2014. Updated 1st March 2018.
Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation
Other people of the Renaissance
- Christopher Marlow
- Edmund Spenser
- John Milton
People of the Seventeenth-Century – Famous people of the Seventeenth-Century which included the emerging European Enlightenment. Including; Shakespeare, Charles I, Louis XIV, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Locke and Galileo.
People of the Enlightenment (1650 to 1780) The Enlightenment is a period which saw the growth of intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures.
Scientists – Famous scientists from Aristotle and Archimedes to Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin. Including mathematicians, biologists, physicists and chemists.
Scientific Renaissance – The key people involved in the Scientific Renaissance of 1450-1687, including Copernicus, Galileo, Francis Bacon, Newton and Sir Robert Boyle.