The Scientific Revolution occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although like everything else, it had origins much earlier and lingered for a long time after. It is called a revolution not because people were scientifically stupid and then became scholars, but because it brought about a great step forward in science.
One key individual in bringing forth the Scientific Revolution was Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626). He began dissuading people from blindly believing ancient scholars such as Aristotle and Galen, without personal experimentation.
Bacon wrote a book called Novum Organum, which contradicted Aristotle’s work Organon. The Organon was a collection of six works on logic by Aristotle. In his book, Bacon brought forth a new logic—inductive reasoning. Aristotle had taught deductive reasoning. Here is an example of inductive and deductive reasoning:
- Inductive: 100% of biological life forms that we know depend on liquid water to exist. Therefore, if we discover a new biological life form, it will probably depend on liquid water to exist.
- Deductive: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
One of the most famous scientific advances that occurred during the Scientific Revolution involved heliocentrism. As taught by figures such as Aristotle and Ptolemy, the earth was fixed and motionless. Surrounding it were perfectly spherical planets orbiting the earth in concentric, circular orbits at a constant speed. This was called geocentrism.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) wrote a work called On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. This book, dedicated to the pope, focused on the topic of heliocentrism: a system in which the sun was at the center.
Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) took Copernicus’ heliocentric theory one step further. He said that the planetary orbits are not circular, but elliptical. He also stated that the planets did not orbit at a constant speed.
A very famous figure in both science and history, Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642), said that the earth’s moon had craters and was not perfectly round. Therefore, he deducted that the planets were not perfectly spherical either. Galileo also discovered that there were moons orbiting Jupiter. Another scientific discovery made by Galileo was that of the stellar parallax. This basically explained that we see things differently and with different backgrounds, depending on the angle from which we look.
Isaac Newton also contributed to the heliocentric theory by explaining, through his laws of motion and law of gravity, why the planets did not fly out of orbit into outer space.
The Scientific Revolution brought great scientific knowledge, without which we would not be able to advance so far in our modern age of technology and science.