How Scientific Revolution Changed the Way of Life in the World

Roughly from 1500 to 1700 was the time period which refers to the Scientific Revolution when the world witnessed fundamental transformations in people’s attitudes towards the natural world.

Based on the principle that progression in science would improve our understanding of the world, Scientific methodology was evolving and revolutionising. A watershed moment which would become a precursor to modern science as we know it today was seen during this period.

Isaac Newton passed away in 1727, he was one of the key figures in the development of scientific methodology and experimentation. European thinking had evolved not only in science, but also in politics, philosophy, religion and the art of communication over the previous 200 years. 

The Enlightenment was a movement that altered people’s attitudes and views towards a host of ideas in politics, science, economics and society more generally was referred to as the Age of Reason.

In 1543 this long process had begun when Nicolas Copernicus the Polish astronomer demonstrated that the earth was not the centre of the universe, an idea which had been imbedded in the European conscience. He demonstrated that the earth revolved around the sun instead. 

It represented something much bigger rather than just a striking cosmological discovery.

Copernicus’s discovery also challenged the values of society at its current status quo as well as contesting long held religious beliefs and teachings and also led to more scientific questions and opened up a new field of curiosity and interest of the scientists.

The advances in the field of astronomy made by Copernicus were not isolated at the time. The anatomist Andreas Vesalius published ground-breaking work on the circulation of the blood in the same year as Copernicus's publication explaining the heliocentric theory.

This marked the start of a long period of scientific progression which continued to challenge and alter previous conceptions of the universe and society as a whole in various fields including mathematics, astronomy, physics and biology.

Shifting attitudes were impacting other spheres of life in the meantime, including most pertinently for the period, religion. A seismic shift in the Christian faith was caused by Martin Luther and the Diet of the Worms which realigned long-held views about the Bible and its interpretation.

Furthermore, a technical revolution which enabled higher learning and communication to infiltrate and permeate people of all classes added to these increasingly turbulent times. It was a development that would massively benefit the scientific revolution to come.

The early 1400s allowed for the dissemination of knowledge to the masses with the invention of the printing press, spreading the word in the vernacular and allowing for the printing of pamphlets, debates, arguments and posters that would insight debate and discussions.

This revolutionary period would involve a host of figures from across the continent, including many from the British Isles. One of the most influential figures was Francis Bacon, an English statesman and philosopher who developed the scientific methodology earning him the title “father of empiricism”.

Bacon was an important political figure and supporter of Elizabeth I and James I born in 1561. He proposed a scientific method that was based on observation and reasoning as part of his new radical approach to knowledge.

Thus, hypotheses were to be proven or disproven through rigorous experimentation. In order to increase human understanding of the universe the old accepted knowledge was to be challenged and tested.

Information needed to exchanged and the state needed to play an important role this was stated in a Baconian methodology, experimentation was key to the expansion of knowledge. 

Western progress was founded on three major discoveries: printing, gunpowder and the magnet according to the explanation of Bacon.

Thomas Hobbes held a view which was startlingly new in its approach, he was an acquaintance of Bacon. He proposed that the faults in nature and difficulties in the material world would only be overcomed using advancements in science.

William Gilbert who was court physician to Elizabeth I and James I was one of the figures close to the royal court who would make great strides in scientific discovery. 

His hypothesis was on the principle of magnets, an idea proposed ten years before Galileo’s publication on the same subject. He proposed that the earth rotated on an axis because of terrestrial magnetism. 

The royal court as well as England experienced a flourishing of talent in this period with progress being made in a variety of fields.

In 1675 John Flamsteed was appointed “The King’s Astronomical Observatory”, born in Derby he was an astronomer who would rise to become one of the most influential in the country.

Flamsteed’s expertise and influence helped him for the foundation of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. He published his work “Historia Coelestis Britannica” posthumously which included some of the most accurate catalogues of stars, marking one of the most significant early contributions to the Observatory.

In the field of biology, the court physician to both James I and Charles I William Harvey who was to make a particularly important impact on the future of medicine. After completing numerous dissections demonstrating on how blood circulates in the body, he published his findings in 1628. 

A ground-breaking discovery on how the heart propelled blood through the body was explained in William Harvey's discovery. All these discoveries were taking place against a backdrop of great unrest and revolution in society, more broadly with civil disorder and the execution of Charles I.

The Civil War which broke out in 1642 in England and lasted until 1649 led great change in politics and society. 

Interestingly both sides of the conflict embraced the potential of science and technology and the positive impact it could have economically, socially and politically rather than creating a hindrance in scientific progress which was quite an obvious observation.

The “new natural philosophy” had become fashionable across all social strata by 1660. It was an interest in the sciences and how they work. 

A new idea of sharing information, experimenting and being interested in technology and science was blossoming from the exiled Charles II to the up and coming middle classes and even commoners.

With the formation of the Royal Society the sciences became institutionalised at this point. From its inauguration, the advancement of science and technology in all areas were sought to be researched and innovated by the Society. 

Notable members included Sir Christopher Wren, Sir William Petty and Robert Boyle to name just a few.

In 1703 Isaac Newton, the President of the Royal Society, was perhaps one of the best well-known figures. Today he's remembered as a crucial figure in scientific advancement.

The foundations for classical mechanics was provided by him when he published “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”. Newton would establish the laws of motion and gravitation that revolutionised the current understanding of science in “Principia”.

The great scientific strides made in the previous centuries was defined by the eighteenth century, which provided a backbone to the ensuing industrialisation which would come to dominate this new era.

Institutions and culture of Britain and in the coming years would help Britain rise in prominence as Science became very much embedded in the state.

Written by: Gourav Chowdhury

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