During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Europe a profound change began to take place in man's conception of the world and his place in it. This change had many aspects - artistic, cultural, economic, political, literary, and intellectual - which historians have vainly tried to capture by the single term 'Renaissance'. We will study the changes in intellectual or philosophic outlook of this period that laid the foundations for the development of modern science.
This aspect of the Renaissance was undoubtedly its most important contribution to the shaping of modern Western civilization. It led to the age of science and high technology in which we now live. For the history of our own subject, the social sciences, the rise of natural science was of crucial importance.
When social sciences began to develop, they were inspired by the achievements of the natural sciences; they attempted to apply to human sodality the new conceptions that the natural sciences had been successfully using in the investigation of natural phenomena. In order to study the history of social science, and appreciate its philosophic problems, we have to devote some attention to the conceptual revolution that was begun, and progressively continued, by natural science.
Leonardo da Vinci(1452-1519) It may seem strange to begin a discussion of the rise of the Age of Science with consideration of the work of an artist. Leonardo, in fact, was not only a painter; he was also a mechanical engineer and inventor, a mathematician, and a scientist. LEONARDO,VESALIUS,AND GALILEO
But it was not his scientific ideas as such that are significant so much as the application of a scientific outlook to his artistic work. As an artist Leonardo continued and developed a new approach to the pictorial arts that had been begun more than a century earlier by Giotto (c.1267 - c.1337).
Prior to Giotto, painting was ornamental and formal, designed to decorate a space or to depict one of the biblical stories in a conventional or symbolic way. Faces were expressionless, bodies were wooden. Giotto began to paint figures that were human: faces showing emotion, bodies shaped and proportioned like real people - even when they were supposed to be saints or angels.
In Leonardo's painting this conception of pictorial art was developed to a high point by works which, whether they were religious or secular, depicted the, figures as living individuals that the viewer could understand because they were like the people he knew in everyday life.
Andereas Vesalius(1514-64) Vesalius was born in what is now Belgium, but he spent his most productive years in Italy, where he taught at the University of Padua, one of the outstanding centres (if not the outstanding centre) of scientific research in the sixteenth century.
Like Leonardo, Vesalius was a student of anatomy, but his investigations of the human body aimed at improving the practice of medicine rather than the work of the artist. The significance of Vesalius's work in the history of science is that his discoveries were made by laying aside the traditional anatomical conceptions of his time, which were contained in 'authoritative' texts, and making careful and objective direct observations of his own.
Before Vesalius, the established authority on the science of medicine was Galen, a Greek physician of the second century A.D., who wrote an enormous amount on virtually all aspects of the subject. His works were copied and recopied over the succeeding centuries and studied by physicians as the authoritative source of all medical knowledge.
Little new work was done, since there did not seem to be any need for physicians to do more than learn from Galen. The study of anatomy by dissection of the human body was not generally considered to be a necessary part of a physician’s training. The professors of medicine who did offer their students a direct view of the interior of the human body usually had the messy work of dissection done by assistants, and their main object was to illustrate the Galenic texts in an uncritical way.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Galileo was one of the most important figures in the early history of modern science. He made highly significant contributions in physics and astronomy- he was the first person to make use of the telescope for astronomical observation; he was firmly convinced of the value of experimentation in physics;
he recognized the power of mathematics in the formulation of physical laws.His work conspicuously represented the combination of objective observation and rational theoretical analysis that is now characteristic of the scientific approach to knowledge. It opened the way to the systematic formulation of the basic laws of physical mechanics which was achieved a century and a half later by Isaac Newton (1642- 1727)