Who Won The War Between The Theologians

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

intellectual debate.

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.


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