Eras and Their Highlights

The Scientific Revolution

Are the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution the same?

The two terms describe interrelated and sequential European intellectual movements that took place from the 1500s to the 1800s. Together, the movements shaped an era that would lay the foundations of modern western civilization, foundations that required the use of reason, or rational thought, to understand the universe, nature, and human relations. During this period, many of the greatest minds in Europe developed new scientific, mathematical, philosophical, and social theories.

Scientists came to believe that observation and experimentation would allow them to discover the laws of nature. Thus, the scientific method emerged, which required tools. Soon the microscope, thermometer, sextant, slide rule, and other instruments were invented. Scientists working during this time included Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), and René Descartes (1596–1650). The era witnessed key discoveries and saw rapid advances in astronomy, anatomy, mathematics, and physics. The advances had an impact on education: universities introduced science courses to the curricula, and elementary and secondary schools followed suit. As people became trained in science, new technologies emerged: complicated farm machinery and new equipment for textile manufacturing and transportation was developed, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution.


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