Scientific Revolution

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Scientific Revolution – Documents Packet
Primary and secondary documents are the backbone of historical research. Primary sources give us a first hand account of an event, while secondary sources give us a broader perspective on an event, given time, distance and new insight. As students of history, we must possess the ability to properly analyze a document in order to understand its value. This packet of documents relating to the “scientific revolution” of the 16th & 17th centuries is designed to sharpen your historical thinking skills. Assignment:

1. Read each document.
2. Discuss what each document is about.
3. Write: What challenges did scientific minded people faced during the 16th and 17th Century? 4. Which documents are most useful in helping you answer the question above? Why? Give examples of individual documents.

|Document 1 | |SECONDARY SOURCE: Michael Postan, “Why Was Science Backward in the Middle Ages?” in A Short History of Science: Origins and Results of the Scientific | |Revolution 1991. | |It is generally agreed that the Middle Ages preserved for the use of later times the science of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Therein lies both the | |scientific achievement and the scientific failure of the medieval civilization. . . . What the Middle Ages took over they did not very much enrich. | |Indeed so small was their own contribution that historians of science are apt to regard the Middle Ages as something of a pause or vacuum in | |scientific advancement. . . . although some advance on planes both purely intellectual and technical there was; yet taken together and placed against | |the vast panorama of medieval life, or indeed against the achievements of Greek and Roman science until in the fourth century B.C., or with the | |scientific activity of the17th century, all these achievements are bound to appear very poor. Why then this poverty? | | | |To this question many answers can be and have been given. But what most of them boil down to is the absence in medieval life of what I should be | |inclined to call scientific incentives. Students of science sometimes differ about the true inspiration of scientific progress. Some seek and find it | |in man's intellectual curiosity, in his desire to understand the workings of nature. Others believe that scientific knowledge grew and still grows out| |of man's attempts to improve his tools and his methods of production; that, in short, scientific truth is a by-product of technical progress. I do not| |want here to take sides in this particular controversy; what I want to suggest is that the Middle Ages were doubly unfortunate in that both the | |inspirations, the intellectual as well as the practical, failed more or less. | | | |The easiest to account for is the intellectual. The Middle Ages were the age of faith, and to that extent they were unfavorable to scientific | |speculation. It is not that scientists as such were proscribed. For on the whole the persecution of men for their scientific ideas was very rare: rare| |because men with dangerous ideas, or indeed with any scientific ideas at all, were themselves very rare; and it is indeed surprising that there were | |any at all. This does not mean that there were no intellectual giants. All...
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