Roots of the Scientific Revolution

Scientific experiments, which are the most valid research method according to the scientific revolution, led to developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, and chemistry.They transformed society's viewpoint on nature.


Learning Objectives

Outline the changes that occurred during the Scientific Revolution that resulted in developments towards a new means for experimentation


Key Takeaways

empiricismGalileoBaconian methodscientific methodBritish Royal Society

The Scientific Revolution

In the early modern period, developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology (including human anatomy), and chemistry resulted in a shift in societal perceptions about nature.Scientific revolutions began in Europe towards the end of the Renaissance period and continued until the late 18th century, influencing the Enlightenment intellectual and social movement.The publication of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) in 1543 is often cited as the starting point of the scientific revolution, although its dates are disputed.

.The Aristotelian tradition continued to be influential in the 17th century, even though natural philosophers had moved away from it in a large number of cases.Many of the classic scientific ideas of classical antiquity have changed profoundly over time, and have largely been discredited.

The change to the medieval idea of science occurred for four reasons:

New Methods

Under the scientific method that was defined and applied in the 17th century, natural and artificial circumstances were abandoned, and a research tradition of systematic experimentation was slowly accepted throughout the scientific community. The philosophy of using an inductive approach to nature (to abandon assumption and to attempt to simply observe with an open mind) was in strict contrast with the earlier, Aristotelian approach of deduction, by which analysis of known facts produced further understanding. In practice, many scientists and philosophers believed that a healthy mix of both was needed—the willingness to both question assumptions, and to interpret observations assumed to have some degree of validity.

During the scientific revolution, changing perceptions about the role of the scientist in respect to nature, the value of evidence, experimental or observed, led towards a scientific methodology in which empiricism played a large, but not absolute, role. The term British empiricism came into use to describe philosophical differences perceived between two of its founders—Francis Bacon, described as empiricist, and René Descartes, who was described as a rationalist. Bacon’s works established and popularized inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or sometimes simply the scientific method. His demand for a planned procedure of investigating all things natural marked a new turn in the rhetorical and theoretical framework for science, much of which still surrounds conceptions of proper methodology today. Correspondingly, Descartes distinguished between the knowledge that could be attained by reason alone (rationalist approach), as, for example, in mathematics, and the knowledge that required experience of the world, as in physics.

Hobbes, Berkeley, and Hume were the leading exponents of empiricism, and they established an explicit empirical tradition as the basis for human knowledge.

New Ideas

Science revolution is credited with many new ideas.There were some revolutions within their individual fields of study.For example:

Principia,