History Chap 8


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262 THE PHYSICAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY (THE ENLIGHTENMENT) Speech is the representation of the mind, and writing is the representation of speech. Aristotle (384-322 BC) READINGS: Stranges, Chapter 8 Article on Joseph Priestley VIDEO: Burke: Program 6, The Factory and Marketplace Revolution Program 7, The Social Impacts of New Medical Knowledge I. INTRODUCTION The eighteenth century was a troubled period with social revolutions occurring in the American colonies and in France. The American Revolution lasted from 1776 to 1783. The French Revolution occurred from 1789 to 1799 followed by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in 1799. Classification in science was a major activity in both the physical and life sciences. The study of gases as a new form of matter in addition to solids and liquids became increasingly important. Investigators studied the properties of gases intending to classify them. Helmont and especially Boyle in their studies on gases in the previous century had begun the classification. Boyle’s work on acids and bases contributed to the classification of substances. In the physical sciences the mechanical philosophy still dominated. Scientific studies emphasized an understanding of composition, combustion, and imponderables (fluids) present in matter. Imponderables were self-repulsive but strongly attracted to matter and sometimes had weight, although never much, and sometimes were weightless. Scientists used imponderables to account for combustion, heat, electricity, and magnetism. Quantification was not yet essential to the study of composition but became so in the investigations of the experimentalists Stephen Hales, Joseph Black, Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley, and Antoine Lavoisier. Electrical studies advanced greatly in 1800 with Alessandro Volta’s invention of the first voltaic cell, or battery, and the production of current electricity. The battery resulted in the introduction of a new investigative tool in science. John Ray and Carl Linnaeus developed natural and artificial systems of classifying plants and animals. Linnaeus perfected the binomial system of nomenclature used in the two classification systems. The binomial system remains in use today. Most scientists adopted the empirical philosophy or sensationalism of John Locke (1632-1704) in London who argued that experience and the phenomena (sense knowledge) were the source of all knowledge including our ideas. The alternative was the idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in Königsberg, Germany, who
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263 believed there exists in the mind a priori fundamental categories such as space, time, force, and motion that we use to organize knowledge obtained from the senses. A revolution also was occurring in industry and economics. James Watt’s steam engine in 1776 ushered in Europe’s industrial revolution. Adam Smith (1723-90), the Scottish economist, published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. It represented the beginning of a revolution in economic thought, the new laissez-faire economic philosophy replacing mercantilism.
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