And The Early Scientists Essay, Research Paper
Who Won the War Between the Theologians and the Early Scientists
The early modern European scientists faced lethal religious opposition. During
the debate between the religious authorities and the scientists, the religious faction was
immature and barbarous. Over three hundred years later, the scientists have easily won the
The first tangle between the scientists and the church authorities happened when
after the death of the Polish monk, Copernicus. He lived from 1472 until 1543, but the
major confrontation did not occur until after his death. Fearing that his heliocentric theory
of the solar system would bring about his early demise, Copernicus did not allow his views
to be publicized until he was on the brink of death. After the Catholic authorities found
out that Copernicus had evaded their chastisement while he was alive, they were so
outraged that they exhumed his body and put it on trial. Unbelievably, they actually
convicted and burned the corpse of Copernicus for heresy. The Calvinists were also angry
at Copernicus for evading their punishment. They went so far as to build a effigy of
Copernicus so they could put him on trial. The Calvinists also declared Copernicus
guilty, and as punishment, burned his likeness.
Johann Kepler was also persecuted due to his scientific beliefs. A German
mathematician who lived from 1571 to 1630, Kepler raised the debate over the Neolithic
theory and developed the Three Laws of Planetary Motion, which state that: the orbits of
the planets are elliptical; the further from the sun the planets are, the longer the revolution
around the sun takes; and the distance of the planets from the sun are all equally
proportional. He was chased out of Catholic Germany and fled to Lutheran Germany. The
Lutherans granted him immunity before he returned to Catholic Germany. When the
Catholic authorities found that they could not put him on trial, they decided to go after his
mother. The authorities put her on trial for heresy. Kepler defended her, and he ended up
winning the case.
Bruno (1548-1600) was like Copernicus in that he developed new theories about
the universe. Bruno theorized that the earth wasn t the center of the universe; he stated
that there were many other galaxies and planets. Bruno was given the chance to recant his
findings, but he refused. Upon this refusal, he was tried, convicted, and put to death.
Galileo was also a major player in helping develop the scientific world. An Italian
astronomer born in 1564, Galileo developed the theory of uniformly accelerated motion,
which states that no matter what the weight of an object, it always falls at the same rate.
He helped perfect the telescope and was the first to see Jupiter s moons. In 1633, Galileo
was brought to trial in front of the inquisition. He was given the choice to recant and live
or hold to his views and be put to death. Galileo, wanting to live to be an old man, decided
to recant. As part of his punishment, Galileo was ordered to remain under house arrest
until his death in 1564.
Wilhelm Liebniz (1646-1716), a German statesman, mathematician, and
philosopher is regarded as one of the greatest minds of the seventeenth century. In 1675,
he published the fundamental principles of calculus. This discovery was arrived at
independently of the discoveries of the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton, whose system
of calculus was invented in 1666. Leibniz’s system was published in 1684, Newton’s in
1687, and the method of notation devised by Leibniz was universally adopted . In 1672 he
also invented a calculating machine capable of multiplying, dividing, and extracting square
roots, and he is considered a pioneer in the development of mathematical logic.
Sir Issac Newton, an English scientist and physicist who lived from 1642 to
1723, is considered one of the greatest scientists in history. His discoveries and theories
laid the foundation for much of the progress in science since his time. Newton was one
of the inventors of the branch of mathematics called calculus (the other was German
mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz). He also solved the mysteries of light and
optics, formulated the three laws of motion, and derived from them the law of universal
Despite it being a time of oppression, there were many advances in the
field of biology. Vasalius was one of these early pioneers. A Belgian anatomist
and physician who lived from 1514 to 1564, his dissections of the human body
and the description of his findings helped to correct misconceptions which were
accepted since ancient times, and he also helped to lay the foundations of the
modern science of anatomy. He was the first to discover how the blood vessels
worked. He published the first complete anatomy book. It was the most
comprehensive book on human anatomy to date, due to the fact that he did his
work on human cadavers, a practice which could have been severely punished if
it had ever been discovered.
William Harvey, the English anatomist who lived from 1578 to 1687,
made a major contribution to the world of anatomy. He was the first to discover
how the blood circulates throughout the body. He also proved that the heart
was the basis of blood circulation.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) was a Dutch scientist, who made
pioneering discoveries concerning protozoa, red blood cells, capillary systems,
and the life cycles of insects. He was able to make these discoveries due to the
fact that he built and perfected microscopes. He was the first to see protozoa,
cells, and capillary systems under a microscope.
Eventually, the church authorities- both Protestant and Catholic- had to
concede the field of science to the opposition. This was due to the fact religious
concepts were outdated by obvious, scientific thinking that was increasingly
clear and useful.