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Analyze how political, religious, and social factors affected the work of scientists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

By chuwaeyo Nov 23, 2013 1038 Words
The scientific revolution took place between 1500 and 1700, with scientists, or natural philosophers made many groundbreaking discoveries. A universe composed of matter in motion which could be understood through mathematics and experiment, changing the mindsets of many Europeans. The work of the scientists were greatly influenced by the approval of political figures and their desire of power, the support and compassion from influential members of the church and social factors that both influenced the progression and acceptance of the new theories.

Scientific findings were regarded highly among political figures because it was an opportunity to gain more power and money. With many Europeans sharing this mindset, those with power strived to create institutions like Royal Academies for these discoveries to be found and shared. As the Finance Minister under Louis XIV, Jean Baptiste Colbert must have wanted to preserve and increase France’s budget. “…an abundance of wealth and in causing the arts and sciences to flourish, we have been persuaded for many years to establish several academies for both letter and sciences.” (Doc 11). King Louis XIV himself was an ally of science as shown in Document 10, where the king is shown at the French Royal Academy, conversing with the scientists. The drawing shows a well-developed institute with instruments and specimens used in astronomy, geography, biology and navigation, which would have not been accessible if it weren’t for King Louis XIV’s interest and funding for the sciences. When scientific discoveries affect ambition, profit or lust of the rulers, they are questioned and suppressed; Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher stated in the Leviathan “…conflicted with the interests of those who rule, I know it would be suppressed” (Doc 7).

Although most of the Catholic Clergy disapproved of any scientific findings, some influential members of the church enjoyed and accepted the discoveries. John Calvin, a French Protestant theologian said “This study should not be prohibited, nor this science condemned, because some frantic persons boldly reject whatever is unknown to them […] this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.” (Doc 2). This shows that he not only wishes for more scientific advances, but that he believes it could help solve some of the mysteries surrounding God. Since John Calvin is a famous religious leader, he could affect scientific research and the beliefs of those doubting any scientific advances due to his high rank and credibility that most scientists did not have. Without as much influence as Calvin, many scientists sent out their studies to those high in power to review their work. Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish priest and astronomer dedicated his book On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres to Pope Paul III because of his love and importance of science. “[…] by your influence and judgment, can readily hold the slanderers from biting. Mathematics are for mathematicians and they, if I be not wholly deceived, will hold that my labors contribute even to the well-being of the church.” (Doc 1). This indicates that Copernicus is hoping that Pope Paul will prevent slander of his work and understand that his book is in support of the church and that other mathematicians will agree with him. In document 5, in a letter to his noble patron, Marin Mersenne states, “If you object to anything, I am ready to remove it entirely. […] you will not find a single word which is not true in my experiments, which many times confirm those of the great Galileo.” Showing that the monk is willing to remove anything from his work that his higher-up rejects, even though all of his results are based on multiple experiments with witnesses to support the end result.

Certain obstacles in society prevented the sciences to progress at the most efficient rate, due to lack of interaction between scientists and sexism. During this time period, sexism was a normal thing, women were thought to be less intelligent than men and were not allowed the same education or opportunities. In a letter to Johannes Hevelius, Henry Oldenbury writes “Friendship among learned men is a great aid to the investigation and elucidation of the truth […] philosophy would then be raised to its greatest heights.” (Doc 6). This indicates that as the Secretary of the English Royal Society, Henry believes sharing information among well taught and raised men is the only way to increase scientific findings. On the other side of society, we have Margaret Cavendish, an English natural philosopher who is seen as less credible and intelligent than the average male scientist. “…I might set up my own school of natural philosophy. But I, being a woman, do fear they would soon cast me out of their schools. For though the Muses, Graces, and Sciences are all of the female gender, yet they were more esteemed in former ages, than they are now.” (Doc 9). In ancient civilizations, women were viewed in a better light than they were during the scientific revolution. Many ancient achievements were portrayed as female beings, but women themselves were not allowed to contribute to new advancements and if they did, they were brushed aside and ignored because of the belief that women were just not capable of doing the same things that men were. When we put aside gender differences, the scientific revolution still seems to be lacking in certain ways. In document 4, Sir Francis Bacon states “…it is not possible to run a race when the goal itself has not been rightly chosen.” There was no final product scientists were hoping to achieve, no exact ending except to improve the sciences. They could build and build onto each other’s work, but what is the point if the scientists themselves don’t know what they’re looking for. Sir Francis Bacon wished to reorganize the sciences with The Great Instauration by creating a goal scientists could work for to tie together their works to have an even better understanding of the universe.

With the advancement of the sciences in Europe, many groups were influential to the works of the scientists, such as. Political figures and their funding to advance further into the discoveries, religious members and their ability to accept and spread or reject and end, and finally multiple social factors that suppressed certain people and helped the spread of certain beliefs and ideas.

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