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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

The Enlightenment

- World History -
Scientific Revolution and The Enlightenment

Causes of the Scientific Revolution
During the Middle Ages people like Thomas Aquinas, while not stressing observation, emphasized logic, clarification and articulation of concepts, providing a basis for scientific thinking. The Renaissance renewed interest in philosophy of the Greco-Roman days (Pythagorous). The Renaissance also increased interest in mathematics. Art and its desire to reproduce reality led to an increase in science knowledge.

Rise of National Monarchies
Monarchs provided money for scientific studies to centralize government, promote trade, and reduce the influence of the church in state affairs. In 1484 King John of Portugal appointed mathematicians to work out a method for finding latitude at sea. In 1660 King Charles II established the Royal Society and naval laboratories. Queen Elizabeth I established Gresham College at Oxford to study navigation and astronomy c. 1597.

cartoon of Elizabeth's universe
"The Queen's Universe." Political cartoon of Queen Elizabeth I - 1588.

Reformation and Religious Conflicts
The printing press increased communication and the standardization of knowledge. Religious conflicts led to an increase in toleration. There was skepticism toward religion, thus, an atmosphere where ideas could be more freely explored.

Johann Gutenberg, printing press
Johann Gutenberg inspects a printed sheet that has just come off his new press.
Click the illustration for an enlargement.

New Mathematics
Arabic numbers, introduced in the Renaissance, came increasingly into use in the 16th century.

Signs for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division were introduced by Francois Vieta in 1603. This became standardized so all mathematicians used the same signs (printing press).

Logarithms were introduced by John Napier (Scotland). Logarithms reduced to addition and subtraction the more complex and timely math such as multiplication and long division.

Analytical Geometry was introduced by Renee Descartes in 1637. This was useful in engineering and military ballistics.

Calculus was introduced by Newton and Leibnitz in the 1660s. Calculus measures quantifies variations in speed, which is useful for tabulating the motions of planets.

Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)
Galileo was an Italian mathematics teacher, astronomer and physicist, and one of the first true scientists. Galileo learned that a pendulum took the same time to make a long swing as it did to make a short one. He showed that light objects fell as fast as heavy ones when pulled toward the earth (gravity).

Galileo demonstrates telescope
Galileo demonstrates how his telescope works.

He built a telescope and became the first man to use this tool to study the moon and planets. What he saw made Galileo believe Copernicus's idea that the Earth was not the center of the universe. The Church punished him for his belief in this idea. Later, scientists like Isaac Newton built new knowledge on Galileo's discoveries.

CopernicusCopernicus's universe
Left: Copernicus. Right: Copernicus' heliocentric model of the universe.

Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)
Gravity. Even Newton thought that the idea that one body acts upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which the action and force may be conveyed from one to another, was to him so great an absurdity that he believed no man could ever believe it. His equation of F=G X mM/d2 basically says that the force of attraction between any two bodies will be directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

New Inventions

Telescope (1608, Dutch) A Dutch glass maker construced a primitive telescope. Galileo heard about it and improved on the design.

Microscope (1590s, Dutch)

Air pump (1650s, Dutch) - to study atmosphere

Pendulum clock (1657, Dutch) let scientists more accurately measure time in their experiments

Barometer (early 1600s, Italian) - measure air pressure

Thermometer (1611) for chemical and medical studies

The Scientific Method
Modern scientists use the "scientific method." First, they observe something carefully to find out everything they can about it. Then they make a theory that explains what the thing is made of, or how it works. Then they test the theory with experiments. If the experiments agree with the theory, it becomes a "law" of science. Science is always changing. Sometimes a scientific law is changed when scientists discover new facts.

1.The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution
Causes, Inventions, Galileo, Newton, Scientific Method

2. The Enlightenment (Age of Reason)
Man in the State of Nature - Locke, Voltaire

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More Information

Kant's Epistemological Model
and Religious Pluralism

Borg vs Hick

Historical Periods of
World History Class Study

| Prehistory | Mesopotamia & Phoenicians |
| Ancient Egypt | Greece | Rome |
| Medieval History | Renaissance and Reformation |
| Exploration | National Monarchies |
| The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment |
| Colonial America and American Revolution |
| The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era

Cool Clicks & Related Links:
(Hit your "Back" button to return to this page)

The European Enlightenment
The Enlightenment
Creative Impulse...Enlightenment
Philosophy Since The Enlightenment
Kant Resources
Jean Jacques Rosseau Association
16th- to 18th-Century Philosophers
The Hume Archives
John Locke, Philosopher of Freedom

The list of links will grow with student participation!
Please e-mail pertinent URLs to Mr. Sedivy at:



Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Modern European History | Advanced Placement European History | Rise of England | World History |
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