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The Scientific Revolution David Beck. What is the scientific revolution? Term first used in the 1930s by Alexandre Koyré Butterfield (1957): “it outshines.

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Presentation on theme: "The Scientific Revolution David Beck. What is the scientific revolution? Term first used in the 1930s by Alexandre Koyré Butterfield (1957): “it outshines."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Scientific Revolution David Beck

2 What is the scientific revolution? Term first used in the 1930s by Alexandre Koyré Butterfield (1957): “it outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes…” Shapin (1996): “there was no such thing as the scientific revolution, and this is a book about it.”

3 What was the Scientific Revolution? Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light. Alexander Pope If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton To me there has never been a higher source of earthly honour or distinction than that connected with advances in science. Isaac Newton

4 Themes of the lecture Chronology: Columbus to Newton – The “new” and progress – The (re-)birth of empiricism – The aims of knowledge Changes & continuities

5 Studying nature, c The world of the university – Three “higher faculties” (medicine, law, theology) – Natural philosophy (theoretical), e.g. materia medica (practical) – Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music) – Ancient influences (e.g. Ptolemy, Aristotle, Pliny, Galen) – Scholasticism (method of learning using dialectical reasoning and disputation) Natural philosophy

6 The importance of the “new” Discovery of the Americas 1530: Girolamo Fracastoro, Syphilis, or the French Disease : Otto Brunfels, Portraits of Living Plants 1543: Andreas Vesalius, De fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body)

7 Explaining novelty 1543: Copernicus, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres “the scorn which I had reason to fear on account of the novelty and unconventionality of my opinion almost induced me to abandon completely the work which I had undertaken… I undertook the task of rereading the works of all the philosophers which I could obtain to learn whether anyone had ever proposed other motions of the universe's spheres than those expounded by the teachers of astronomy in the schools. And in fact first I found in Cicero that Hicetas supposed the earth to move. Later I also discovered in Plutarch that certain others were of this opinion”

8 Collecting and ordering knowledge 1587: Conrad Gessner the History of Animals Zwinger’s Theatrum humanae vitae – 1565: one volume, 1,400 pages – Two more editions in Zwinger’s lifetime, grew to 4,500 pages by 1589 – Re-worked in 1631 by Beyerlinck: eight volumes, 7,468 pages (and a 600 page index).

9 Improving “craft” knowledge Art – Increasingly realistic depictions of nature – Use of artists/illustrators alongside naturalists/anatomists etc. Alchemy – “Secret” knowledge – Making nature perform through experiments Medicine – Connections to the courts and employability – Barber-surgeons

10 : a summary Through the sixteenth century there was a gradual acceptance of novelty (plants, animals, etc.) both in new world and old. Non-philosophical investigations of nature were increasingly wide and successful. Meanwhile, ‘natural philosophy’ in the universities was much as it had been a century earlier.

11 Galileo (1) Technology (the telescope) – Convex objective lens and a concave eyepiece – Initially c. 3x magnification, but improved to 30x Patronage and courtly science

12 Galileo (2) Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632) 1633: called before the inquisition suspected of heresy (for supporting Copernicus), the Dialogue placed on the Index of Prohibited Books and Galileo placed under house arrest for life.

13 Bacon (1) No great discoveries, technological innovations or inventions Novum Organum: “By the Fall man fell from both his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. But even in this life both of those losses can be made good; the former by religion and faith, the latter by arts and sciences.” “sacred theology must be drawn from the word and oracles of God, not from the light of nature.”

14 Bacon (2) Information should be exchanged and collected- “‘an inventory or enumeration and view of inventions already discovered.” Knowledge was to "overcome the necessities and miseries of humanity” The state should control and run all of this. Direct observation and experimentation

15 “Puritan Science” and utility Utopian fiction in England: Bacon’s New Atlantis, Plattes/Hartlib Macaria Hartlib circle and the reform movement in the 1640s and 1650s: – Education – Political arithmetic Plattes, Samuel Hartlib his Legacy (1655): “Utopia may be had really, without any fiction at all’

16 The Royal Society Founded c Individuals were to use their senses and witness experiments that generated facts; individuals were then to say what they believed to be the truth. Knowledge was constituted when all believed alike. “Your Majesty will certainly obtain Immortal Fame, for having establish'd a perpetual Succession of Inventors.”

17 Descartes and Hobbes (note: ideas synthesised and simplified, a lot! When revising and/or writing on this topic do not rely on the slide) – We discover truth only by mathematical reasoning. – Everything must be stated at the outset in clear and simple form, with gradual and logical argument advancing to more complex formulations. – It is impossible for us to know the world. All we can know is the result of sensory stimuli which may or may not reflect “reality”. – Humans also behave rationally, so politics and the study of man should also be based on mathematical deductions.

18 Changes & Continuities Spaces & communication of/in science – from Italy to England – from universities to patronage networks to state- sponsored societies – from ‘the book’ to ‘the world’ to ‘the laboratory’ – Republic of Letters – Print

19 Changes and Continuities How certain was knowledge, and how was it made certain? – From the “disputed certainty” of philosophy to the “accepted probability” of science What was progress? – Recovering, improving and bettering ancient knowledge – Utopianism and the state – The link between theory and practice


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