Tycho Brahe: Observation and Measurement
Then: Late 1500’s
The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe was one of many early scientists of the Scientific Revolution, a time period between 1500 and 1700 when many scientists discovered natural laws and created processes to test theory. In 1572, he observed a supernova for nearly eighteen months, and also the first recorded comet in 1577. In addition to observing and charting over 750 stars and heavenly bodies, Tycho’s greatest contribution to science was his insistence in the use of careful observation and very detailed, accurate records on everything he did. He also created the most rudimentary telescope to make more accurate observations of the heavens. The emphasis he placed on observation and accurate records laid the base work for how other theories and methods can be applied and tested by future scientists. In that way his contributions still affect modern science.
Now: Observations in Space
Even today scientists still keep careful, accurate records when observing and proving scientific theory. Kepler was Brahe’s assistant and later used Brahe’s records of Mars’ movements to further his theories of planetary motion.
Nicolaus Copernicus: Father of modern astronomy
Then: the father of modern astronomy disbelieves in the authorities of the heavens
Up until the 1500s, everyone in Europe assumed that the ancient Greek philosophers such as Ptolemy and Aristotle were the authorities on the universe. As the age of exploration disproved some of their theories, people started to question what else was inaccurate. Nicolaus Copernicus is considered the first man brave enough to not only use logic and observation to do so, but to also publish the book that triggered the Scientific Revolution. This book was titled THE REVOLUTION OF THE CELESTRIAL SPHERES and he published it in 1543. He observed that the earth-centered, or geo-centric, planet rotation theories of Ptolemy that the Catholic church supported couldn’t be true because the planets’ patterns in the sky would be too complicated. Instead of assuming the theories of the past were correct and making his observations fit them, he dared to theorize a different possibility. He considered the possibility of a sun-centered, or heliocentric, universe model.
Now: from theory to foundation of science
Copernicus’s heliocentric theory had a major influence on several other prominent observers of the scientific revolution. Eventually, more astronomers proved he was accurate. Today his theory, the Copernican theory, is a key part of modern astronomy. This is why he’s often referred to as the Father of Modern Astronomy.
Galileo Galilei: Father of Experimental Science
From Barter to Coinage
Galileo is perhaps one of the most well known figures of the scientific revolution. He created the first telescope that resembles what modern science uses today. Using it, he observed craters in the Earth’s moon, and that Jupiter had its own moons. Galileo did scientific experiments to test his theories of motion of objects, or mechanics. For this reason, he is considered the Father of Experimental Science.
Most importantly, Galileo found evidence that backed up Copernicus’s theory of a sun-centered universe. He wrote a highly controversial book called DIALOGUE OF THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS in which a discussion between two fictional characters about helio-centric, (or sun circled by planets system) and geo-centric (earth centered with sun, planet, and stars circling it) universal system models was held. It covertly pushed Copernican Theory of sun-centered system. This book lead to his trial by the Catholic Church for heresy, or a belief opposed to the religious beliefs of the church. He tried to stay true to his beliefs, but eventually he recanted them when threatened with death.
Sir Isaac Newton: math and motion
Then: A mathematicians theories became law
Almost thirty years after Galileo’s trial at the Catholic Church in Italy, the Scientific Revolution hit its golden years in the capable hands of an English mathematician. Sir Isaac Newton reviewed all the other research on mathematics, motion, and space. Then he made his own observations and notes. Using them together, he created four theories that have since then been proven and are considered laws in modern science. In addition to his theories, he wrote a book titled PRINCIPIA MATMATICA and it was published in 1687. He also invented the complex math called calculus, so scientists had formulas and processes to logically solve advanced theories or problems.
Now: Newton’s FOUR laws
The first and most influential law Newton created was the law of gravity. He wanted to know how the moon stayed in orbit around the Earth. As the story was told, he saw an apple fall from a tree and theorized that the same force that pulled the apple to the group also made the Earth and Moon tug on one another. He realized that the mass, or amount of matter, an object has as well as the distance between two objects determined how much influence they have on each other.
His other three laws had to do with motion. They explained how the universe is like a machine, and described exactly how everything moves in space.
Johannes Kepler: The Planets’ Path
Then: An assistant builds on his boss’s theories
Tycho Brahe was given the island of Hven by King Fredrick II of Denmark in 1576, and as he set up his observatory, he found an assistant. This assistant was the German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Kepler dedicated his own study time to the orbits of the planets. Up until this time, Copernican theory that the planets move in circular orbits around the sun was considered the most accurate theory. Orbits are the paths heavenly bodies (suns, stars, moons, planets) make around each other. However, Kepler observed Mars closely and discovered that it moved in a elliptical, or oval, orbit around the sun. This discovery not only confirmed Copernican Theory, but built upon it, and rocked the Scientific Revolution community.
In addition to his orbit deduction, Kepler also found that the closer to the sun a planet was, the faster it moved. This theory helped Sir Isaac Newton with his laws of motion in later years.
Lastly, Kepler also discovered that the human eye sees images in reverse like a camera lens. He toyed with the newly-invented refractor telescope and wondered how light works within it to show the heavens upside down. From there, he took the data he’d gathered and applied it to the human eye. He also created an upgraded version of the telescope, called the Keplerian telescope. He also invented glasses for the near- and far-sighted and wrote a book about his optic research titled ASTRONOMIAE PARS OPTICA.
Francis BACON: The Right steps in the right order
Then: Science could expand human knowledge into the future
The many studies of the Scientific Revolution piqued the interest of several philosophers. One of them was an English gentleman by the name of Francis Bacon. He was fascinated with how those first scientists observed, studied, and theorized to discover and understand natural law. He said that science should be approached systematically and close observation was the only way to find the truth of all things. If done in this way, he felt vehemently that scientific research should be funded, and requested that the King of England do so. He also wrote a book about approaching scientific research this way. THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING was published in 1605.
Now: scientists still use Bacon’s system
Later, scientists developed Bacon’s systematic approach with other philosophers’ suggestions into a procedure called The Scientific Method and it is still used in modern times. The Scientific Method combines mathematics, observation , and logic into six duplicable steps:
- State a problem or question.
- Gather information about the problem.
- Theorize a hypothesis, or assumption about the problem. (Note, a hypothesis is different from a solution in that it hasn’t been tested yet.)
- Test the hypothesis by experimentation.
- Record and analyze data on the experiment.
- Draw conclusions on what the experiment’s data revealed.
Rene Descartes: Doubt until proven true
Now: Deduce from doubt
Another major contributor to The Scientific Revolution was the French philosopher Rene Descartes. He emphasized that past science and knowledge should be doubted until proven to be true rather than accepted on faith. This highly contradicted the way people of his time and the church approached the natural world. He took it a step beyond the material experiments and tests, and argued that even these methods of collecting data could trick man’s senses. He said only clear thinking and logic could offer proof of the truth.
Descartes also emphasized the belief that the physical, natural world followed key physic and mathematical laws, so only logic could work with them.
Descartes wrote a book called DISCOURSE ON THE METHOD, and he wrote it in French rather than in Latin so that all common men and women could learn to think for themselves.
Now: How sleuths and scientists Use logic
Though on a grander scale, the application of logic and reason emphasized by Descartes is still used in many fields of science. Detective and criminal investigation work is especially good at utilizing reason and logic to find the truth. Descartes “doubt until proven true” way of thinking is also used in various steps of the Scientific Method.
Scientific Revolution Inventions Still Used Today
The inventions of the scientific revolution took science to a new level by offering more accurate ways to observe and measure the natural world. Study the four scientific tools below and take note of what they are used for.
Though it is not certain, Galileo probably made the first thermometer. A German scientist named Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit created a more accurate model in the early 1700s. He placed liquid mercury in a glass tube and observed how it expanded and rose within it as the temperature increased. He also created the Fahranheit temperature scale that is still used in the U.S.
Use: Measuring air temperature.
In 1643, Italian scientist Evangelista Torricelli created the barometer by placing liquid mercury in a glass tube and placed it upside down in a dish. He observed how it moved up and down with changes in pressure of the atmosphere over a couple days. The barometer became a great tool for studying weather.
Use: Measuring barometric pressure in the atmosphere.
Thought first created in Holland, the telescope went through many upgrades during the scientific revolution from such men as Kepler, Brahe, and Galileo.
Use: To observe the heavenly bodies, such as stars, planets, and comets.
Dutch lens makers in the 1500s created the first microscope, but around 1680 Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made his own powerful version. He was the first man to see the complex microscopic world of bacteria.
Use: To see tiny plants and animals not visible to the naked eye with powerful lenses.