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Scientific Revolution

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Preceding the Enlightenment was a “scientific revolution”. In the seventeenth century, a group of scientists set the Western world on a new path known as the Scientific Revolution, which gave Europeans a new way of viewing the universe and their place in it. In this essay I will discuss the appropriateness of this label and also some of the major figures participating in it. I will also explain how the increased understanding of the physical world that came from “revolution” lead people to reexamine mans social and political worlds.

The Scientific Revolution ultimately challenged conceptions and beliefs about the nature of the external world that had become dominant by the Late Middle Ages. While only a small number of Europe’s educated elite were affected by the Scientific Revolution, it was important for the time nonetheless. One major contributor to the Scientific Revolution was Nicolaus Copernicus who was a mathematician who felt that Ptolemy’s geocentric system (a conception where the universe was seen as a series of concentric spheres with a fixed or motionless earth at its center) failed to accord with the observed motions of the heavenly bodies.

Because of this, Copernicus developed his own heliocentric theory which argued that the sun was motionless at the center of the universe and the planets revolved around the sun. It also stated that the moon revolved around the earth. Johannes Kepler also contributed to the Scientific Revolution. Kepler backed Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, however claimed that the orbits of the planets around the sun were not circular but elliptical. Galileo Galilei was the first European to make systematic observations of the heavens by means of a telescope. He observed that there were mountains on the moons, four moons revolving around Jupiter, and sunspots. Isaac Newton, considered the greatest genius of the Scientific Revolution, defined three laws of motion that govern the planetary bodies, as well as objects on earth. He also argued for the universal law of gravitation.

Along with the new discovers that came with the Scientific Revolution, came an increased understanding of the physical world which lead people to reexamine mans social and political worlds. After the Scientific Revolution, an Enlightenment began. The Enlightenment was a movement of intellectuals who were greatly impressed with the accomplishments of the Scientific Revolution, and believed that all institutions and systems were subject to the rational, scientific way of thinking. Man’s social world was reexamined after the Scientific Revolution. According to John Locke, people were molded by their environment, by whatever they perceived through their senses from their surrounding world. Man’s political world was reexamined as well, after the Scientific Revolution. This led to many new political discoveries. Charles de Secondat, the baron of Montesquieu, attempted to apply the scientific method to the social and political arena. In doing this, he made a lasting contribution by coming up with a separation of powers. Montesquieu believed that England’s system, with its separate executive, legislative, and judicial powers that served to limit and control each other, provided the greatest freedom and security for a state.

The Scientific Revolution not only impacted Europe at the time, but impacted the future up until the 21st century. The contributions of people like Isaac Newton, and Galileo Galilei began an Enlightenment, in which people would begin to look for answers in themselves and science (two places they had previously not chosen to look). Instead of going to religion, new ideas were formed, and with these ideas and discoveries came progress.

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