Scientific Revolution

Sheila J. Rabin

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online January 2017 | | DOI:
Scientific Revolution

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The developments in science during the 16th and 17th centuries have traditionally been called the “Scientific Revolution.” The era that began with Nicolaus Copernicus (b. 1473–d. 1543) and ended with Isaac Newton (b. 1642–d. 1727) saw not only a change from an earth-centered to a sun-centered cosmos and a resultant mechanical universe but also advances in experimental method and changes in the life sciences. The traditional formulation saw all this as the beginnings of modern science. Yet not all was new. As scholars looked more deeply, many found that the science of the previous period looked more sophisticated, and that of the later period seemed less modern than had been acknowledged. The line of demarcation between “medieval” and “modern” science blurred. The study of nature, even among the most famous thinkers of the era, such as Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, included subjects that today would be considered unscientific: astrology, alchemy, and magic. Though experiments were carried out, there was no professional class of scientists; most practitioners were dilettantes. Many historians are now reluctant to use the phrase “scientific revolution” when referring to this period in science. Nonetheless, important changes did occur in the physical and life sciences even if no total rupture occurred between the older and newer approaches. This entry lists works by subject and does not include monographs on specific individuals or their works, which will appear in separate entries.

Article.  9042 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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