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The Scientific Revolution (1550-1700)

Timeline

Important Terms, People, and Events

Revival of the Study of Nature (16th Century)

1543: Andreas Vesalius Publishes On the Fabric of the Human Body This is considered to be the first great modern work of science and the foundation of modern biology. In it, Vesalius makes unprecedented observations about the structure of the human body.

1543: Nicolas Copernicus Publishes De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of Celestial Bodies) Copernicus' masterwork; he sets out the heliocentric theory.

1584: Giordano Bruno Publishes The Ash-Wednesday Supper, On Cause, Principle, and Unity, and On the Infinite Universe and Its Worlds The renegade Italian monk unfolds his philosophy, the centerpiece of which is the contention that the universe is infinitely large and that the Earth is by no means at the center of it. For the expression of his thoughts, Bruno is burned at the stake as a heretic.

1591: Francois Viete Invents Analytical Trigonometry Viete's invention is essential to the study of physics and astronomy.

1591: Galileo Galilei Demonstrates the Properties of Gravity Galileo demonstrates, from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa, that a one- pound weight and a one hundred-pound weight, dropped at the same moment, hit the ground at the same moment, refuting the contention of the Aristotelian system that the rate of fall of an object is dependent upon its weight. He expounds fully on this demonstration years later in his 1638 Discourse on Two New Sciences.

1610: Galileo Publishes Messenger of the Heavens Galileo's 24-page booklet describes his telescopic observations of the moon's surface, and of Jupiter's moons, making the Church uneasy. The Inquisition soon warns Galileo to desist from spreading his theories.

1614: John Napier Publishes Description of the Marvelous Canon of Logarithms Napier's invention and cataloguing of logarithms is an essential step in easing the task of numerical calculation.

1618: Johannes Kepler Reveals His Third and Final Law of Planetary Motion Kepler's laws of planetary motion describe the form and operation of planetary orbits, and are the final step leading to the academic rejection of the Aristotelian system.

1620: Francis Bacon Publishes Novum Organum Bacon attempts to create organization and cooperation within the scientific community by demonstrating how the diverse fields of science relate to one another.

1630: Galileo Publishes Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World Galileo's magnum opus uses the laws of physics to refute the Aristotelian contention that the Earth is the center of the solar system and supports the heliocentric Copernican view. Galileo presents the doctrine of uniformity, which claims that the laws of terrestrial physics are no different than the laws of celestial physics.

1633: Galileo is Forced to Recant his Theories The Inquisition forces Galileo to sign a recantation and condemns him to house arrest for the remaining nine years of his life. His Dialogue is ordered burned as heretical, and his sentence to be read at every university.

1637: Rene Descartes Publishes His Discourse on Method Descartes' work sets forth the principles of deductive reasoning as used in the modern scientific method.

1637: Rene Descartes Publishes Geometry In this landmark work, Descartes discusses how motion may be represented as a curve along a graph, defined by its relation to planes of reference.

1643: Evangelista Torricelli Invents the Barometer Torricelli's invention measures air pressure, demonstrating that air does indeed have weight, and that the pressure caused by that weight differs in different situations.

1656: Otto von Guericke Invents the Air Pump Van Guerick demonstrates the properties of a vacuum by using his air pump to take the air from within his famous "Magdeberg hemispheres," which, though easily separated in normal conditions, could not be parted by two teams of sixteen horses once he had removed the air.

1662: The Royal Society of London is Officially Organized by King Charles II The Royal Society brings together the greatest minds of the region in efforts to advance science through cooperation. Similar societies subsequently spring up throughout Europe, creating an intellectual network, which produces many of the scientific advances of the later seventeenth century.

1666: Robert Boyle Publishes Origin of Form and Qualities Boyle's work, though highly flawed, sets the stage for the study of matter on the atomic level.

1680: Giovanni Alfonso Borelli Publishes On the Motion of Animals Borelli's work is the greatest early triumph of the application of mechanical laws to the human organism.

1687: Isaac Newton Publishes Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica Perhaps the most important event in the history of science, the Principia lays out Newton's comprehensive model of the universe as organized according to the law of universal gravitation. The Principia represents the integration of the works of all of the great astronomers who preceded Newton, and remains the basis of modern physics and astronomy.

1692: The Salem Witch Trials Take Place in Massachusetts Indicative of the maintenance of traditional superstitions even late in the seventeenth century, 200 people are tried for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Over 7,000 women were executed for witchcraft in Europe between 1550 and 1700, largely in association with the various theological battles of the Reformation.

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