People of the Scientific Renaissance

The Scientific Renaissance was a period of world history which saw the emergence of modern science and overturning the medieval understanding of the world and science.

The Scientific Renaissance took place between the mid 15th Century and late 17th Century. Some consider two distinct phases of the Scientific Renaissance

  • 1450–1630 – Scientific Renaissance and rediscovery of the knowledge of the ancients.
  • 1630- 1687 – Scientific Revolution – innovation of new ideas, focused on Sir Issac Newton.
  • 17th Century – Age of Enlightenment – a continuation of scientific progress.

The Scientific Renaissance included the development of the scientific method. This involves testing the hypothesis through verifiable data. The significance of this is that it moved science from theory and conjecture to provable fact. This development of scientific method enabled new discoveries ranging from blood circulation in the body, to the place of the earth in the solar system.

A defining moment in the history of science was the publication in 1543 of  Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) This placed the earth as a planet orbiting the sun – as opposed to the prevailing geocentric view of earth. Copernicus’s work was strengthened by Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

Aspects of the scientific revolution

The law of gravity. In physics, Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and gravity gave a comprehensive understanding of the universe based on these new ideas.

Anatomy. In anatomy, there was a rapid growth in understanding the mechanics of the human body, through dissection.

Circulation of blood. William Harvey’s discovered the role of the heart in circulating blood around the body.

Dentistry. Pierre Fauchard developed the first systematic methods of dentistry and looking after teeth.

Chemistry. In the seventeenth century, Robert Boyle and others helped to develop chemistry as a distinct subject from alchemy

People of the Scientific Renaissance

artist 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 and in many ways served as a precursor to the Scientific Renaissance. On many occasions, he was well ahead of his time. His drawing of Vitruvian Man was symbolic of the Renaissance.

martin-lutherNicholaus 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. Copernicus is viewed as a key figure in the new scientific approach. He was also an astronomer, physician, economist, diplomat, classics scholar and jurist.

Paracelsus 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.

Ambroise_Paré Ambroise Paré (1510 – 1590) A French barber-surgeon who served as a battlefield surgeon. Paré observed different methods used to deal with battlefield wounds. As a result, he was able to prove treatment with ligatures and antiseptics were much more effective than cauterisation.

Vesalius Andreas Vesalius (1514 – 1564) Flemish anatomist, physician and author of De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body). This became an influential treatise on the anatomy of the human body and informed medical science for many years to come.

Francis_Bacon 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 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.

martin-lutherJohannes 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.

William_Harvey William Harvey (1578 – 1657) English physician. He was the first known doctor to describe in detail the circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the brain and body by the heart.

philosopherRene Descartes (1596 – 1650) French philosopher and mathematician. Dubbed the father of modern philosophy, Descartes was influential in a new rationalist movement. Descartes set a precedent for examining issues and trying to avoid any presumption. Descartes offered one of the most famous philosophic statements ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – “I think, therefore I am”

Robert_Boyle Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691) British scientist considered the ‘Father of modern chemistry.’ Boyle was one of the early pioneers of the scientific method. He is best-known for ‘Boyle’s Law’ which states the inverse relationship between pressure and volume of gas at a constant temperature. In 1661, he published The Sceptical Chymist which was a cornerstone of the subject.

Antonie_van_Leeuwenhoek Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723) Dutch scientist and trader.  Leeuwenhoek is considered the father of microbiology for his work in discovering single-celled organisms and also observing muscle fibres, blood flow and bacteria. He developed the microscope which helped his own discoveries.

Pierre_Fauchard Pierre Fauchard (1678 –  1761) French physician credited with being the “Father of dentistry”. Fauchard developed treatments for dental issues and proposed the role of sugar in leading to dental decay.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “People of the Scientific Renaissance”, Oxford,  UK. Published 18 October 2018.

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