The Scientific Revolution

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The Scientific Revolution (1550-1700)
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General Summary
For the long centuries of the Middle Ages (500-1350 AD) the canon of scientific knowledge had experienced little change, and the Catholic Church had preserved acceptance of a system of beliefs based on the teachings of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which it had incorporated into religious doctrine. During this period there was little scientific inquiry and experimentation. Rather, students of the sciences simply read the works of the alleged authorities and accepted their word as truth. However, during the Renaissance this doctrinal passivity began to change. The quest to understand the natural world led to the revival of botany and anatomy by thinkers such as Andreas Vesalius during the later sixteenth century. These scientific observers were surprised to find that their conclusions did not always match up with the accepted truths, and this finding inspired others to delve further into the study of the world around them. Scientific study quickly extended from the earth to the heavens, and Nicolas Copernicus, upon examining the records of the motions of heavenly bodies, soon discarded the old geocentric theory that placed the Earth at the center of the solar system and replaced it with a heliocentric theory in which the Earth was simply one of a number of planets orbiting the sun. Though this scheme seemed to comply better with the astronomical records of the time, Copernicus had little direct evidence to support his claims. Not ready to abandon traditional beliefs, the forces of tradition, in the form of the Church and the mass of Europeans, kept the heliocentric theory from achieving full acceptance. The theory awaited the advancement of mathematics and physics to support its claims. The wait was not very long. During the early seventeenth century,...
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