The Scientific Revolution was a period in the 17th and 18th Century which saw the emergence of modern science with major breakthroughs and developments in maths, physics, chemistry and biology. The dates of the Scientific Revolution are considered to date from 1632 – end of the 18th Century. 1632 is significant because this is the year when Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (supporting a heliocentric view of the universe). However, others feel the Scientific Revolution also depended on previous developments stretching back to the Scientific Renaissance and the rediscovery of the classics. The key element of the Scientific Revolution was Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and theory of gravity which transformed physics and gave another argument in favour of a heliocentric view.
The Scientific Revolution was more than the development of new laws but also encompassed a new way of viewing science. It was no longer wedded to religion and philosophy but stood independently of belief systems. A fundamental development was the scientific method which insisted on deducing results from observable data, rather than developing ideas which fitted into a certain philosophic belief. The Scientific Revolution helped to decrease the prominence of religion in society and increased the importance of scientific research. It was also an age of optimism with scientists believing that by understanding the natural world, we could develop new technologies to deal with the suffering facing humanity.
Leading scientists in the Scientific Revolution
Nicholaus Copernicus (1473- 1543) Polish scientist. A Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric view of the universe. His book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres (1543) was one of the major moments of the Scientific Revolution.
William Gilbert (1544 – 1603) English physicist and natural philosopher. Gilbert was influential in rejecting Aristotelian philosophy and the Scholastic method of teaching. Gilbert made among the first references to electricity and magnetic pulls of large objects, such as the earth and moon. His greatest work was De Magnete (1600) (On magnetic bodies), which also was a rigorous example of using experiments and inductive reasoning.
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. In 1620 he published Novum Organum a philosophic treaty which was optimistic on the role of science in solving many miseries of the human condition.
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642) Italian scientist. Created 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. Galileo was the first scientist and thinker to state natural laws could be displayed through mathematics.
Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer. Kepler is best known for his laws of planetary motion. He formed a key figure in the 17th Century Scientific Revolution.
Otto von Guericke (1602 – 1686) German scientist and inventor who researched and developed the physics of vacuums. He was also able to demonstrate electrostatic repulsion. His work on vacuums was taken up by Robert Boyle.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French mathematician, physicist philosopher and inventor. Pascal worked on projective geometry and corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory. He worked on concepts of pressure and vacuum and advocated the scientific method.
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.
Christiaan Huygens (1629 – 1695) A Dutch physicist, mathematician, astronomer and inventor. Huygens developed mathematical formula to describe the laws of physics. This included a mathematical basis for the laws of motion and his wave theory of light. He also developed an accurate pendulum clock and a more powerful telescope which helped him to investigate the rings of Saturn.
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.
Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703) Hooke was a polymath – a natural philosopher, astronomer and surveyor to the City of London following the great fire of 1966. He worked as an assistant to Robert Boyle in gas law experiments. He pioneered the use of microscopes to investigate fossils and cellular biology. He was an early proponent of the idea of evolution. He worked on the idea of gravity and how gravity may influence the motion of planets.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) English scientist. Newton made studies in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. In his Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, he laid the foundations for classical mechanics, explaining the law of gravity and the Laws of Motion.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) German mathematician, innovator and philosopher. Leibniz developed mechanical calculators and worked on theories of differential and integral calculus. He also developed mechanical calculators, including the Leibniz wheel which was used in the first mass-produced mechanical calculators known as arithmometers.
The Royal Society (1660 – ) The Royal Society was an organisation of scientists devoted to investigating and discovering the latest scientific developments. This was highly influential in the Scientific Revolution for nurturing the careers and experiments of figures such as Boyle, Hooke and Newton
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.
Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) Swiss mathematician and physicist. Euler made important discoveries in infinitesimal calculus, graph theory mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy, and music theory. Euler also formalised many mathematical notations.
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743 – 1794) French Chemist and Nobleman. Considered the ‘Father of Chemistry’ Lavoisier discovered hydrogen and Oxygen and showed the role of Oxygen in combustion. He also made the first comprehensive list of Table of Elements. He was guillotined shortly after the French Revolution.
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Famous Scientists – Famous scientists from Aristotle and Archimedes to Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin. Including mathematicians, biologists, physicists and chemists.
People of the Enlightenment (1650s to 1780s) The Enlightenment is a period which saw the growth in intellectual reason, individualism and a challenge to existing religious and political structures.
People of the Renaissance (1350s to 1650s) The Renaissance covers the flowering of art and culture in Europe. Primarily in art, but also in science. Includes Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Major periods in world history. A list of the major periods in world history. Including the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. It also includes modern eras, which have lasted only a few decades, such as the Gilded Age, Progressive Age and the Information Age.