Scientific revolution: outline
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Definition: a period when new ideas in astronomy, physics, biology, and other sciences led to a rejection of doctrines of Aristotle and the Roman Catholic Church, which also laid the foundation of modern science.
Start: the publication of Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
and Andreas Vesalius's On the Fabric of the Human body in 1543.
Significance: It established a base for modern science. This period saw a fundamental transformation in scientific ideas across astronomy, physics and biology as reason and knowledge overweighed superstition, leading to destruction of scholastic philosophy and Aristotelian physics. Therefore, challenges were posed to Roman Catholic dogma. However, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and even Galileo remained devout in their faith. It is argued that the revolution coincided with the religious revolution of the Protestant Reformation.
Changes: replacement of the geocentric theory with the heliocentric theory
that of the Aristotelian continuous matter theory with atomism
that of Aristotelian physics with Galileo's dynamics
that of Galen’s blood movement concept with Harvey's blood circulation theory.
Ancestors: ancient Greek and Hellenistic learning, Roman/Byzantine science, medieval Islamic science, and schools and universities of medieval Europe. Besides, though the scientific revolution evolved considerably, the Aristotelian tradition was still the dominant intellectual framework in 16th and 17th century Europe.
Philosophy: It underlay scientific developments. The mechanical philosophy which was developed by Descartes viewed nature as following physical laws. Empiricism, under the influence of Bacon, was initiated as the systematic experimentation with an inductive approach, in contrast to the Aristotelian mode that emphasized observation and deductive reasoning. The final one mathematization indicated that the quantitative measurement was increasingly applied.
Main scientific developments:
1. Copernicus advanced the heliocentric theory of cosmology;
2. Vesalius found that the circulation of blood resolved from pumping of the heart;
3. Brahe made more accurate observations of the planets;
4. Bacon outlined the system of inductive approach;
5. Galileo improved the telescope, made several important astronomical discoveries, and developed the laws for falling bodies;
6. Kepler published his three laws of planetary motion;
7. Harvey demonstrated that blood circulates using dissections;
8. Descartes published Discourse on the Method, which helped to establish the scientific method;
9. Newton explained the elliptical orbits of the planets, advanced the law of universal gravitation, developed infinitesimal calculus and emphasized rigorous experimentation.
In 1543 Copernicus' work on the heliocentric model of the solar system was published, in which he tried to prove that the sun was the center of the universe. 【This was at the request of the Roman Catholic Church, as part of the Catholic Reformation's efforts to create a more accurate calendar to govern its activities.】(我不理解，可以删去) For almost two millennia, the geocentric model had been accepted by all but a few astronomers. The idea that the earth moved around the sun contradicted not only the unquestioned Aristotelian philosophy, but also common sense.
Johannes Kepler and Galileo gave the theory credibility. Kepler was an astronomer who, using the accurate observations of Tycho Brahe, proposed that the planets move around the sun not in circular orbits, but in elliptical ones. Together with his other laws of planetary motion, this allowed him to create a model of the solar system that was an improvement over Copernicus' original system. Galileo's main contributions to the acceptance of the heliocentric system were his mechanics, the observations he made with his telescope, as well as his detailed presentation of the case for the system. Using an early theory of inertia, Galileo could explain why rocks dropped from a tower fall straight down even if the earth rotates. His observations of the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, the spots on the sun, and mountains on the moon all helped to discredit the Aristotelian philosophy and the Ptolemaic theory of the solar system. Through their combined discoveries, the heliocentric system gained support, and at the end of the 17th century it was generally accepted by astronomers.
Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Galileo's mechanics culminated in the work of Isaac Newton. His laws of motion were to be the solid foundation of mechanics; his law of universal gravitation combined terrestrial and celestial mechanics into one great system that seemed to be able to describe the whole world in mathematical formulae.
Continuity thesis: discredits that there was radical discontinuity between the intellectual development of the Middle Ages and the developments in the Renaissance and early modern period. Some continuity theorists point to earlier intellectual revolutions occurring in the Middle Ages, usually referring to either a European "Renaissance of the 12th century" or a medieval "Muslim scientific revolution", as a sign of continuity.
Arun Bala: argues that the changes involved in the Scientific Revolution – the mathematical realist turn, the mechanical philosophy, the atomism and the heliocentrism – have to be seen rooted in multicultural influences on Europe. Islamic science gave the first exemplar of a mathematical realist theory with Alhazen's Book of Optics. The swift transfer of Chinese mechanical technologies in the medieval era shifted European sensibilities to perceive the world in the image of a machine. The Hindu-Arabic numeral system, which developed in association with atomism in India, carried a new mode of mathematical atomic thinking. And the heliocentric theory as well as Newton's concept of force acting at a distance, were rooted in ancient Egyptian religious ideas associated with Hermeticism. Bala argues that by ignoring such multicultural impacts we have been led to a Eurocentric conception of the scientific revolution.