Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Scientific Renaissance 1450-1630

This book filled in a lot of gaps left by 'A Birth of A New Physics'. It was a plesure to read. I especially liked the format of the book- each chapter explored a different scientific disipline and the prominent figures within it.

Humanism played a large part in the rise of science in the Renaissance age. The translation movement of the 12th century led to the rediscovery of Hellenistic Greek works. However, the European scholars found these translations unsatisfactory and decidede to write new ones in the 15th century. The works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galen, Hippocrates and others were repopularised and regarded as the authoritative texts in their respective fields.

Copernicus wrote On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in exactly the same format as Ptolemy's Almagest. Copernicus wasn't a pioneer, he got the idea for a heliocentric universe from what he understod was the Pythagorean model. Osiander's preface stated his own views on Astronomy, not those of Copernicus. Astrology was a popular discipline. Most men studied star charts to be able to predict horoscopes. Brahe and Kepler weren't above it.

The book also mentioned alchemy, and how widely practiced it was. Ultimately the appearance of syphilis caused much stress to be placed on the alchemists to synthesise mercury (it was the most common treatment) and this eventually led to the new science of chemistry.

Galen and Aristotle were used in medicine. Cadavers were a topic for debate. Vesalius, Cesalpino, Fernel. Harvey's text would replace them all later.

Gilbert and his magnetism would play a big influence on Kepler. Magic was widely practiced, and was closely associated with math. Gilbert was quite the mystic.

The book ended with Galileo. I was disappointed they didn't go on to talk about Newton.

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