An Italian scientist, Galileo, made one of the first telescopes--it was about as powerful as an opera glass--and turned it on the heavenly bodies with wonderful results. He found the sun moving unmistakably on its axis, Venus showing phases according to her position in relation to the sun, Jupiter accompanied by revolving moons, or satellites, and the Milky Way composed of a multitude of separate stars. Galileo rightly believed that these discoveries confirmed the theory of Copernicus.
Another man of genius, the German Kepler, worked out the mathematical laws which govern the movements of the planets. He made it clear that the planets revolve around sun in elliptical instead of circular orbits. Kepler's investigations afterwards led to the discovery of the principle of gravitation.
VESALIUS, 1514-1564 AND HARVEY, 1578-1657
Two other scientists did epochal work in a field far removed from astronomy. Vesalius, a Fleming, who studied in Italian medical schools, gave to the world the first careful description of the human body based on actual dissection. He was thus the founder of human anatomy. Harvey, an Englishman, after observing living animals, announced the discovery of the circulation of the blood. He thereby founded human physiology.
THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD
Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Vesalius, Harvey, and their fellow workers built up the scientific method. In the Middle Ages students had mostly been satisfied to accept what Aristotle and other philosophers had said, without trying to prove their statements. Kepler, for instance, was the first to disprove the Aristotelian idea that, as all perfect motion is circular, therefore the heavenly bodies must move in circular orbits. Similarly, the world had to wait many centuries before Harvey showed Aristotle's error in supposing that the blood arose in the liver, went thence to the heart, and by the veins was conducted over the body. The new scientific method rested on observation and experiment. Students learned at length to take nothing for granted, to set aside all authority, and to go straight to nature for their facts. As Lord Bacon, one of Shakespeare's contemporaries and a severe critic of the old scholasticism, declared, "All depends on keeping the eye steadily fixed upon the facts of nature, and so receiving their images simply as they are, for God forbid that we should give out a dream of our own imagination for a pattern of the world." Modern science, to which we owe so much, is a product of the Renaissance.
Elizabethan Elizabethan Science and Technology
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