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The Scientific Revolution
Essential Questions
• What factors in Europe from the 12th century on helped
to prepare Europeans and help them make the
breakthrough to a modern scientific way of thinking?
• Why was the question of the position of the earth and
sun in the universe so important in debates about
natural science in the late Middle Ages?
• In what ways did ancient Greek thinkers like Aristotle,
Galen, Ptolemy and others prepare Europeans to make
the breakthrough to modern science yet also thwart
their efforts to do so somewhat?
Essential Questions (continued)
• Why are the philosophers Rene Descartes and Francis
Bacon seen as key to the development of the scientific
method even though neither was actually a scientist?
• Why are the contributions of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe,
Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton
often linked together as the key series of contributions
that launched the Scientific Revolution?
• How did the development of various instruments for
making new kinds of observations and measurements
contribute to the development of the
Scientific Revolution?
What Was the Scientific Revolution?
• A revolution in human
understanding and
knowledge about the
physical universe
• 17th century
• Began with
Kepler, Galileo
• Ended with Newton
“Science” Before the
Scientific Revolution
• Based almost entirely
on reasoning
• Experimental method or
observation wasn’t used at all
• Science in medieval times
– Alchemy
– Astrology
A medieval alchemist
Factors Leading to the
Scientific Revolution
• Rise of
universities
• Contact with nonWestern societies
• The Renaissance
• Exploration
Rationalism
• Reason, not tradition,
is the source of
all knowledge
• René Descartes
(1596–1650)
• French philosopher
and mathematician
• Cogito ergo sum (“I
think, therefore, I am”)
• Deductive reasoning
René Descartes
Empiricism
• The belief that experience
is the only true source
of knowledge
• Roger Bacon
• Shift toward empiricism
a hallmark of the
Scientific Revolution
• Helped lead to the
development of the
scientific method
Roger Bacon
Francis Bacon and the Scientific Method
• 1561–1626
• English philosopher
and empiricist
• Inductive reasoning
• Argued for
experimental
methodology
The Scientific Method
Science as a multiple-step process:
1. Observe an 2. Develop a
object or
theory that
phenomenon
explains the
object or
phenomenon
3. Test the
theory with
experiments