The Scientific Revolution
The Scientific Revolution
The ancients, first in the Middle East and then in Classical Greece and Rome, had made great strides in mathematics and the sciences. However, during the Christian era, any scientific teachings that conflicted with the Bible were rigorously suppressed and denounced as heresy.
During the Middle Ages, scientists theorized without having the means of testing their ideas by experimentation. By the seventeenth century this was no longer the case. The invention of the telescope, for example, made it possible to see the heavens up close and observe how the planets moved through space. By the same token, printing had spread throughout Europe beginning in the 1400s, so it was much easier to publicize and share new knowledge than it had been in medieval times. It made possible a true scientific community of scholars who knew one another, corresponded, and shared and discussed their ideas.
The era is known as the Scientific Revolution for two reasons. The first is the major discoveries in astronomy, physics, and mathematics that took place at this time. The second is a shift in thinking that was both the cause and the result of the Scientific Revolution. In the past, people had believed that what happened in the universe was the result of divine whims that were beyond human understanding; now they saw the universe as a machine that worked according to fixed laws that human beings could discover and understand. However, the Scientific Revolution did not do away with human faith in God; rather, it suggested that God had created the universe and set it in motion according to the laws the scientists had observed. God was considered similar to a watchmaker, who designed and built a watch, wound it up, and left it to run on its own.
As new discoveries followed one another, science became the hobby of many people of leisure. These rich people, including monarchs such as Catherine the Great of Russia, helped the Scientific Revolution in two ways. First, their interest in science and mechanics lent an air of respectability to experimentation and discovery. Second, they were reliable sources of patronage and sponsorship, providing financial support, influence with the powerful, and welcome interest and enthusiasm to many scholars.
Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:
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