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
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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