History Chapter 7


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201 THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION OF THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES Theories are very thin and unsubstantial; experience only is tangible Hosea Bailey (1771-1852) American clergyman READINGS: Stranges, Chapter 7 Gale Christianson, Isaac Newton VIDEO: Burke, Program 5, Science Revises the Heavens I. INTRODUCTION In the seventeenth century the center of science shifted from Italy to northwest Europe, to England, France, and Germany. The mechanical philosophy, or the study of matter in motion, dominated scientific thinking and characterized the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The major objective of the mechanical philosophers was to discover the laws that accounted for the motion of matter, from the invisible atoms to the visible planets. Other developments and advances of the scientific revolution included a continuing increase in experimentation; invention of new instrumentation, such as the telescope, microscope, barometer, vacuum pump, and thermometer; mathematical advances that led to the introduction of logarithms, the slide rule, analytical geometry, and calculus. The number of scientists increased, scientific societies such as England’s Royal Society and France’s Academy of Sciences arose. They began publication of new journals, particularly the Philosophical Transactions of England’s Royal Society and the Comptes Rendu of the French Academy of Sciences. Astronomy and physics advanced significantly. Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton discovered laws of motion that accounted for the acceleration of falling bodies and the motion of the planets, culminating in Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Investigations on light led to the construction of the first telescope and microscope and to an understanding of refraction. Newton’s support of the particle theory of light made it the dominant theory compared to the wave theory which had only minimal support. Newton showed that white light was really a composite, and for the first time astronomers calculated a value for the speed of light. Physicists made the first measurement of the speed of sound in the late 1600s. Robert Boyle demonstrated that sound waves, unlike light, required a medium for their transfer. Evangelista Torricelli’s studies on the evidence of a vacuum, or whether nature abhors a vacuum as Aristotle claimed, led to his invention of the barometer. Studies on heat, which seventeenth- century physicists believed was mechanical or a consequence of matter in motion, led later to the invention of useful thermometers. The first useful thermometers appeared only in the 1700s.
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202 Johannes Baptiste Van Helmont and Robert Boyle began the study of gasses but had no suitable collecting device, which hampered their investigations. Nevertheless their investigations were the first stage in solving the problems of chemical identity which advanced significantly in the 1700s. Boyle in 1662 also established an inverse relation between pressure and volume, known today as Boyle’s Law.
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course HIST 362 taught by Professor Stranges during the Spring '08 term at Texas A&M.

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