Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Founders of modern science

Science (from the Latin scientia, 'knowledge') is a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as the organized body of knowledge gained through such research. Science as defined here is sometimes termed pure science to differentiate it from applied science, which is the application of scientific research to specific human needs.

The renewal of learning in Europe, that began with 12th century Scholasticism, came to an end about the time of the Black Death, and the initial period of the subsequent Italian Renaissance is sometimes seen as a lull in scientific activity. The Northern Renaissance, on the other hand, showed a decisive shift in focus from Aristoteleian natural philosophy to chemistry and the biological sciences (botany, anatomy, and medicine). Thus modern science in Europe was resumed in a period of great upheaval: the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation; the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus; the Fall of Constantinople; but also the re-discovery of Aristotle during the Scholastic period presaged large social and political changes (see the Renaissance).

Thus, a suitable environment was created in which it became possible to question scientific doctrine, in much the same way that Martin Luther and John Calvin questioned religious doctrine. The works of Claudius Ptolemaeus (astronomy) and Galen (medicine) were found not always to match everyday observations. Work by Vesalius on human cadavers found problems with the Galenic view of anatomy.

The willingness to question previously held truths and search for new answers resulted in a period of major scientific advancements, now known as the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution is traditionally held by most historians to have begun in 1543, when De Revolutionibus, by the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, was first printed. The thesis of this book was that the Earth moved around the Sun. The period culminated with the publication of the PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687 by Isaac Newton.


 Galileo and the Church, Part 1 of 4

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