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Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment and Technology



The Scientific Revolution


1543- Nicolas Copernicus published De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. 

              (heliocentric solar system)

          Andreas Vesalius published Concerning the Structure of the Human Body


1605- Francis Bacon published Advancement of Learning

1609- Johannes Kepler published Astronomia Nova (elliptical orbits)

1610- Galileo Galilei published Sidereal Messenger (observations with the telescope)

1628- William Harvey published On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals.

              (circulation of blood)

1637- Rene Descartes published Discourse on Method

1660- Robert Boyle published New Experiments Physico-Mechanical Touching the Spring of the Air. (laws of gases)

1662-Royal Society of London founded.

1666- French Academy of Science founded.

1677- Von Leeuwenhoek used a microscope to discover male spermatoza.

1678- Huygens proposed the wave theory of light.

1687- Newton published Principia Mathematica (gravity, natural laws)

1735- Linnaeus published his Systema Naturae. (taxonomy)

1789- Lavoisier published his treatise on chemistry. (modern theory of chemical



  • The Scientific Revolution ultimately cast aside traditional knowledge and the tradition authorities associated with that knowledge across a broad front of endeavors pertaining to the understanding of the natural world (including its relationship to the supernatural or to the divine).
  • New, clearer lines drawn between science, magic and religion.
  • The Scientific Revolution helped create a mentality in Europe which emphasized the value of human reason and the human senses as instruments for the achievement of a full understanding of  the natural world.
  • As a part of this world view came the development of a belief in mathematics, experimentation and observation, and eventually a full-blown 'scientific method.' This way of thinking led to a conviction that the physical universe ran according to natural laws that were universally applicable, consistent, and accessible to human reason.



The Enlightenment   


1651- Hobbes' Leviathan

1688- Locke published Of Civil Government: Two Treatises.

1697- Pierre Bayle published the Historical and Critical Dictionary.

1733- Voltaire published Philosophical Letters on the English.

1748- Montesquieu published The Spirit of the Laws.

1752-1780-   Diderot's Encyclopedie published in thirty-five volumes.

1762- Rousseau published The Social Contract.

1776- American Declaration of Independence

           Adam Smith wrote An Inquiry in the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

1780-1790- The Emperor Joseph II abolished serfdom, declared complete religious toleration for Christians and Jews, and proposed a system of proportional taxation based on income.

1794- Condorcet wrote Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind.


  • Reason, nature, happiness, progress and liberty were key concepts of the Enlightenment.
  • Enlightenment writers were those who applied the principles and practices of the Scientific Revolution to the examination of mankind and of human society. If the natural world operated according to rationally determinable natural laws, so too must human beings and human societies as part of the natural world.
  • Enlightenment writers issued withering attacks on "irrational" institutions and practices, as well as on the "superstitions" they associated with much of conventional religion (especially Catholicism).






  • Beginning of the interaction between scientific theory and technological practice. Mercator (1594); mining technology; metallurgy; optical lenses; ship building; gun powder technology.



  • Holland the leader in the 17th century. England and France in the 18th century. England in the 19th century.


A few Inventions of the period.

  • Transportation-  All-weather roads (raised grave, England, 18th century)
  • Canal locks (Italy, 17th century)
  • Clocks                Pendulum clocks (1695); Marine Chronometer, 1763
  • Thermometer:     Italy, 1654; Fahrenheit (d. 1763)
  • Armaments:        muzzle-loading guns; earthwork fortifications
  • Steam engine, 1706
  • 1709, coke used for smelting


  • Textiles:       Flying shuttle, 1733

                     Spinning Jenny, 1770

                     Spinning Mule, 1779

                     power loom, 1785