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The Scientific Revolution Revisited

The Scientific Revolution Revisited

Mikuláš Teich
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 156
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  • Book Info
    The Scientific Revolution Revisited
    Book Description:

    The Scientific Revolution Revisited brings Mikuláš Teich back to the great movement of thought and action that transformed European science and society in the seventeenth century. Drawing on a lifetime of scholarly experience in six penetrating chapters, Teich examines the ways of investigating and understanding nature that matured during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, charting their progress towards science as we now know it and insisting on the essential interpenetration of such inquiry with its changing social environment. The Scientific Revolution was marked by the global expansion of trade by European powers and by interstate rivalries for a stake in the developing world market, in which advanced medieval China, remarkably, did not participate. It is in the wake of these happenings, in Teich's original retelling, that the Thirty Years War and the Scientific Revolution emerge as products of and factors in an uneven transition in European and world history: from natural philosophy to modern science, feudalism to capitalism, the late medieval to the early modern period. With a narrative that moves from pre-classical thought to the European institutionalisation of science – and a scope that embraces figures both lionised and neglected, such as Nicole Oresme, Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, Isaac Newton, René Descartes, Thaddeus Hagecius, Johann Joachim Becher – The Scientific Revolution Revisited illuminates the social and intellectual sea changes that shaped the modern world.

    eISBN: 978-1-78374-124-3
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Terminology and Acknowledgements
    (pp. 1-2)
  5. Preface
    (pp. 3-4)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 5-10)

    This book is about interpreting the Scientific Revolution as a distinctive movement directed towards the exploration of the world of nature and coming into its own in Europe by the end of the seventeenth century. The famed English historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) is said to have advised that problems were more important than periods. If he held this opinion, he ignored that problems are embedded in time and place and do not arise autonomously. The inseparability of problem and period has been amply demonstrated in six collections of essays, examining the ‘national context’ not only of the Scientific Revolution but...

  7. 1. From Pre-classical to Classical Pursuits
    (pp. 11-28)

    In the main, historians and philosophers of science have come to differentiate between theScientific Revolutionandscientific revolutions. The former term generally refers to the great movement of thought and action associated with the theoretical and practical pursuits of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1631) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727), which transformed astronomy and mechanics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. First, the Earth-centred system based on Ptolemy’s (c. 100-170) celestial geometry was replaced by the heliocentric system in which the Earth and the other then-known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) revolved around the Sun....

  8. 2. Experimentation and Quantification
    (pp. 29-54)

    At the end of the 1970s, sociologists of science and sociologically-orientated historians of science began to pay attention to experimentation. Even if their claim that experimentation had been neglected was overstated, it is true that historical literature is rich neither in works dealing with experimentation nor with systematisation.

    Uncertainties persist regarding experimentation in the medieval world before it began to occupy, jointly with quantification, the centre-stage of scientific activities in the seventeenth century.

    This has something to do with the course of the discussion regarding the medieval origins of normal science, stimulated by Alistair Crombie in the early 1950s. It...

  9. 3. Institutionalisation of Science
    (pp. 55-74)

    The founding of the Royal Society has been linked to the thinking of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) on organised science (about which more in the next chapter). The Royal Society is the premier scientific body in Britain, and some would claim the world, but it is not the oldest.

    Two short-lived Italian organisations, Accademia dei Lincei (Academy of the Lynxes) in Rome (1609-1630, or 1603-1651) and Accademia del Cimento (Academy of the Experiment) in Florence (1657-1667), are usually listed as the earliest instances of the modern institutionalisation of science. The distinction of the oldest continuously active scientific society belongs to the...

  10. 4. Truth(s)
    (pp. 75-82)

    That the collaborative interrogation of the natural world, promoted by the Royal Society in its early days, could be more productive than individual endeavour was brought home to the learned world by Francis Bacon. His depiction of the fictional Solomon’s House in theNew Atlantis(1627) was to serve as a prototype of organised scientific activities for the satisfaction of human needs. This imaginary institution was made up of 36 investigators engaged in collecting information and producing knowledge of nature, including natural histories and surveys of natural resources. Fundamentally, they were collectively concerned with understanding how matter in motion works,...

  11. 5. The Scientific Revolution: The Big Picture
    (pp. 83-100)

    ‘There is no such thing as the Scientific Revolution and this is a book about it’.¹ With this somewhat baffling sentence Steven Shapin begins his scrutiny of the movement which, as I argue, came into its own in certain European countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. That is, a universal mode of producing natural knowledge materialised, one that did not exist anywhere before and that is still practised now. It merits to be designated astheScientific Revolution.

    My approach to this thing called the ‘Scientific Revolution’ is not part of the historiographical mainstream. Indeed since the 1980s, a...

  12. 6. West and East European Contexts
    (pp. 101-118)

    Printing, gunpowder and the magnetic compass have long been cited as hallmarks of the cultural and technical superiority of medieval China. This has been the case ever since Francis Bacon pinpointed them as the three discoveries, unknown to the ancients, that

    have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world; the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation; whence have followed innumerable changes, insomuch that no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.¹

    Rupert Hall, writing some 350 years later,...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 119-124)

    Becher was a polymath whose interests included human and veterinary medicine, mathematics, physics, chemistry, education, philology, technology, husbandry, political economy, social organisation, colonialism and natural philosophy. It is the sheer breadth of his inquiries that demands an interdisciplinary approach to the assessment of Becher’s place in the world of seventeenth-century learning.

    As illustrated above, Becher had a pretty good understanding of the dominating role of mercantile activity in the society in which he lived and was involved. As an economist and chemist, Becher was superior to Leibniz, with whom he is occasionally juxtaposed;¹ that said, Becher certainly was inferior in...

  14. References
    (pp. 125-138)
  15. Index
    (pp. 139-144)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 145-147)