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Scientific Revolution timeline

The Scientific Revolution (c. 1543-1687) was a historical period that merged with the Renaissance humanist revival of Greco-Roman culture and learning and the global European maritime exploration that we know as the Age of Discovery. This was also a time when the Church was rent by the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. These changes that took place between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially the emphasis on science, logic, combined with a sense of progress and improvement, found later expression in the 18th century Age of Enlightenment when Revolutions gave social expression to the influential intellectual ideals and ideas developed through this period with its desire for science and logic. Life-changing technologies had emerged together with a scientific mind-set that would flow into the Industrial Revolution.

In the ancient world naturalistic explanations developed by the Pre-Socratic philosophers; Aristotle derives a detached empiricism based on syllogistic (deductive) logic and free of Plato‘s transcendental mysticism (mostly in his Physica). Also to be challenged were: Ptolemaic geography and astronomy; Empedocles’s division of matter into Earth, Air, Fire, and Water; Eudoxus’s system of the heavens consisting of concentric spheres; the medicine and anatomy of Hippocrates and Galen


1348 – Great Plague
c. 1425 – Emergence of perspective painting
c. 1428 – Increasing use of engraved prints
c. 1440 – Johannes Gutenberg – invention of the printing press which, when combined with engraved illustrations in perspective, transforms scientific communication
1462 – Publication of of compendium Epitome of Ptolemy’s Almagest
1469 – Publication of the influential Corpus Hermeticum
1473-1543 – Nicolaus Copernicus
1472 – Peuerbach’s New Theory of the Planets
1492 – Columbus lands in the New World
1493-1541 – Paracelsus
1494-1555 – Georg Agricola
1514 – Copernicus’s private circulation of Commentariolus, a precursor to his later heliocentric theory
1517– Luther launches the Reformation
1518London College of Physicians given a royal charter as a guild and learned society
1522 – Magellan expedition circumnavigates the world
c. 1530 – Paracelsus develops iatrochemistry a form of alchemy devoted to extending life, thus a kind of pharmacy. He probably coined the word ‘chemistry’


1543 – Nicolaus Copernicus publication De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) often taken, with Versalius’s work, as the commencing date for the Scientific Revolution
1543 – Versalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica a treatise on human anatomy – supercedes Galen’s work and serves as a forerunner to the definitive Gray’s Anatomy first published in 1858
1545 – Girolamo Cordano – The Great Art – advances in algebraic method
1545Council of Trent sets off the Counter-reformation
1545 – Gerolamo Cardano – conceives the idea of complex numbers
1546-1601 – Tycho Brahe
1550 – Jyeshtadeva – Indian Kerala school mathematician, writes the Yuktibhāṣā, the world’s first calculus text with detailed derivations of many calculus theorems and formulae
1551 – Founding of Jesuit University Collegio Romano
1554 – Giovanni Benedetti – opposes Aristotle‘s theory of falling bodies
1556 – Georgius Agricola – De Re Metallica, a comprehensive account of mining and metallurgy
1561-1626 – Francis Bacon
1564-1642 – Galileo Galilei
1566 – Pedro Niunez – compendium on navigation and its instrumentation
1569 – Mercator’s cartographic projection published
1571-1630 – Johannes Kepler – laws of elliptic planetary motion
1572– Tycho Brahe observes new star as a supernova blazing for 18 months thus demonstrating that the superlunary sphere was not unchanging as Aristotle had claimed
1572 – Rafael Bombelli – writes Algebra treatise and uses imaginary numbers to solve cubic equations
1576 – Tycho Brahe massive observatory begins construction at Hven in Denmark
1582 – Conversion from Julian to Gregorian calendar
1591 – Francois Viete invention of Analytical Trigonometry,essential to the study of physics and astronomy
1591 – Galileo demonstrates that a 1 pound weight and a 100 pound weight, dropped at the same moment from the leaning tower of Pisa, hit the ground at the same time thus refuting Aristotele’s claim that the rate of fall of an object is dependent upon its weight
1596 – Gresham College founded as a precursor to the Royal Society of London
1596-1650 – Rene Descartes – Philosophy and laws of reflection
1597 – Andreas Libavius – publishes Alchemia, possibly the first chemistry textbook
1600 – William Gilbert’s – De Magnete is a nexemplary empirical study of electrical phenomena
1600 – Italian Dominican friar Giordano Bruno is tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition for denial of core Catholic doctrines including eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation. Found guilty he was burned at the stake but was remembered as a martyr for science – although the extent to which it was his scientific and astronomical views were the main heresy is debated
1604 – Kepler – made Imperial Mathematician in 1603 now publishes Astronomiae Pars Optica – optics
1605 – Sir Francis Bacon- in The Proficience and Advancement of Learning outlines his scientific method
1605 – Michal Sedziwój – publishes A New Light of Alchemy proposing a ‘food of life’ within air, now known as oxygen
1607 – Galileo – demonstrates that a fired projectile follows a parabolic path
1608 – Hans Lippershey – produced first refracting telescope in the Netherlands. Built by lens-makers in the spectacle industry. Claims first patent followed by Jacob Metius. Already in 1609 Galileo built himself one for astronomical observations
1609 – Kepler – Astronomia Nova – Laws of Planetary Motion and Mars following an elliptic orbit
1610 – Galileo – Sidereal Messenger – various significant astromical observations
1614 – John Napier – development of logarithms in Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio
1614 – John Napier discusses Napierian logarithms in Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio
1615 – Jean Beguin – publishes Tyrocinium Chymicum, a chemistry textbook containing the first ever chemical equation
1618– Thirty Years War begins
1619 – Kepler – Harmonia Mundi (Harmonies of the World) presents his Third Law concerning planetary orbits, the final step in rejection of the Aristotelian system
1619 – René Descartes – discovers analytic geometry though Fermat claims independent discovery
1620 – Francis Bacon – Novum Organum in which he challenges Aristotelian Scholasticism by developing a scientific method based on inductive reasoning, experiment, and observation
1623 – Galileo in The Assayer attacks Aristotle and the Scholastics in favor of mathematics and experimentation by considering the cases especially of of statics, dynamics, and his theory of matter
1627-1691 – Robert Boyle – the first modern chemist
1627 – Kepler – Rudolphine Tables, world’s most accurate astronomical tables including Tycho Brahe’s observations and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion
1628 – William Harvey – Anatomical Exercises on the Movement of the Heart and Blood or De Motu Cordis describing experiments demonstrating the circulation of the blood in a reinterpretation of the role of the heart as a pump that superceded the old doctrines of Greco-Roman physician Galen
1629-1695 – Christiaan Huygens
1629– Fermat – develops a rudimentary differential calculus
1631 – Pierre Gassendi – observes the transit of the planet Mercury across the disc of the Sun
1632 – Galileo – Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – a comparison of the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems often interpreted as the final break with the Classical view of the natural order
1632-1723 – Antonie van Leeuwenhoek – develops a powerful single lens microscope
1632 – Galileo – in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican summons all the evidence for the Copernican system
1633 – Galileo – summoned by the Inquisition in Rome and suspected of heresy by supporting the Copernican system. Forced to recant and placed under house arrest for life, the Dialogue … and Two Chief World Systems … becoming prohibited works though he saw it translated into Latin for other Europeans
1637 – Descartes – Discourse on Method published together with his Geometry (which discusses the motion can be represented by the curve of a graph and defined by its relation to planes of reference) also a description of scientific method. This and his Meditations had a profound and lasting influence on European thought. His skepticism derives ‘I think therefore I am’ from systematic doubt
1637– Fermat – claims proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem
1638 – Galileo’s – Discours on Two New Sciences published in Protestant Leiden and addressing the problem of motion the second science dealing with the strength of materials
1639 – Englishman Jeremiah Horrocks makes the first observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun
1641 – Descartes – his Meditations presents the case for the separation of mind and body, the dualism of a res cogitans (thinking thing or mind) and res extensa (extended thing or matter)
1642 – Blaise Pascal – invention of mechanical calculator
1644 – Evangelista Torricelli (1607–1647) – produces an operational mercury barometer
1644 – Descartes – Principles of Philosophy presents arguments for the Mechanical Philosophy, a universe of matter united across space and time by principles of motion and mechanical connections of contact, impact, pressure, causation
1646 – Thomas Browne coins the word ‘electricity’
1647 – Johannes Hevelius – Selenographia a detailed and illustrated description of the surface of the Moon
1647 – Otto von Guericke constructs the first air pump
1648 – Jan Baptista van Helmont proposes that chemistry is foundational to physiology, his posthumous publication Ortus medicinae is a transitional work between alchemy and chemistry influencing Robert Boyle. Describes many experiments and an early version of the law of conservation of mass
1648 – first meeting of the Oxford Philosophical Society which advocated the formation of the Royal Society of London
1651 – Thomas Hobbes, philosopher and student of geometry, atomism, and optics publishes his political theory The Leviathan supporting mechanistic concepts and the benefits of the state in maintaining a rule of law
1653Montmor Academy of Paris meets for the first time as an important semi-private scientific society formed under patron Habert de Montmor. This would be one of many subsequent intellectual salons. Members included Huygens and Roberval of the Académie des Sciences
1654 – Otto von Guericke – invents vacuum pump, greatly improved by Robert Hooke in 1658
1654 – James Ussher – biblical scholar argues that having fully analyzed evidence in the Bible Holy Writ the date of Creation was 23 October 4004 BCE at 9.00 am
1654 – Pascal & Fermat – devise the theory of probability
1646-1716 – Gottfried Liebniz – calculus (with Newton); the pinwheel calculator
Otto von Guericke – demonstrates vacuum pressure by using teams of horses to try and pull apart two metal hemispheres from which air had been removed
1660 – Antonie van Leeuwenhoek publishes illustrations of micro-organisms drawn using his new microscope
1660 – Otto von Guericke – electrostatic generator
1661 – Robert Boyle – The Sceptical Chymist examines the distinction between chemistry and alchemy and includes early concepts of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions. Effectively launches modern chemistry arguing against Aristotelian and Paracelsian methods and distinguishes between acids and bases
1662 – Robert Boyle – Boyle’s law experimentally based description of the behavior of gases, specifically the relationship between pressure and volume in a closed system
1662 – formation of the Royal Society of London by Royal Charter
1665 – Robert Hooke – Micrographia includes exquisite etchings of microscopic sttructures including the famous ‘Hooke’s flea’
1665 – Newton – develops the fundamental theorem of calculus and his version of infinitesimal calculus
1665 – Publication of the first edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
1666 – The Great Fire of London
1666 – Foundation of the Parisian Académie des Sciences directed by Colbert with the patronage of Louis XIV. Positions are funded appointments not paying members who propose and elect new members as in London
1666 – Robert Boyle’s Origin of Form and Qualities is a precursor to studies of matter on the atomic level
1668 – Italian Francesco Redi demonstrates in Generation of Insects that, contra Aristotle, insects and other forms of life are not generated spontaneously
1668-1738 – Herman Boerhaave – ‘Father of Physiology’ Europe’s leading physician from Leiden University
1669 – Newton – builds his first reflecting telescope with an eyepiece and concave mirror
1671 – Jean Picard – Mesure de la terre (Measure of the Earth)provides measurements for the length of a meridian. His work on the pendulum clock would aid Newtonian speculation on the shape of the earth
1672 – Newton – notes in the Philosophical Transactions that white light is composed of a spectrum of colors (the rainbow), each color with a measurable angle of refraction
1673 – Christiaan Huygens – publishes Horologium oscillatorium (The oscillation of pendula), a study of the pendulum clock
1673 – Leibniz – develops his own version of infinitesimal calculus
1674 – John Mayow – proposes that particles in the air are needed for combustion and that particles are also transmitted by the lungs to the blood
1675 – Newton – theory of light, the prismatic decomposition of white light into a spectrum of colours
1675 – Ole Roemer – uses astronomical observations to show that the speed of light is finite
1677 – Antoni van Leeuwenhoek observes spermatozoa through a microscope arguing they are the source of reproductive matter
1678–1761 – Pierre Fauchard – the founder of dentistry
1678 – Edmond Halley publishes a catalogue of the stars in the Southern Hemisphere
1679 – Denis Papin (1647–1712) – invention of the steam digester, forerunner of the steam engine
1680s – Leibniz – works on symbolic logic
1683 – Elias Ashmole – donates his collections and library for the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the first public museum in England
1684 – Leibniz’s – paper indicating notation for the calculus of infinitesimals
1687 – Isaac Newton – Principia Mathematica – the most influential and revered work of the Scientific Revolution establishing the foundational principles and the categories of force, mass, and acceleration as evidenced in three ‘laws of motion’ and principle of universal gravitation to give rise to what became known as classical mechanics


1690 – Christiaan Huygens – Treatise on Light a wave theory contra Newton’s particulate theory
1690 – John Locke – Essay Concerning Human Understanding knowledge of the nature must be contingent not necessry (probable not certain) and is based in sense experience not innate ideas – claiming that the mind is a tabula rasa or blank slate
1697 – Samuel Clarke’s translation of Rohault’s Treatise on Physics as a System of Natural Philosophy (1671) becomes a university textbook
1698 – Thomas Savery – patents an operational steam engine. In The Miner’s Friend; or, An Engine to Raise Water by Fire (1702) he claims it can pump water out of mines
1700 – Liebniz founds the Berlin Academy of Science
1704 – Newton publishes Opticks
1708 – Abraham Darby I 1678–1717 – famous father of three generations Darbys produces high-grade iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal
1712 – Thomas Newcomen (1664–1729) – produces the first practical steam engine water pump and becomes a central figure of the Industrial Revolution
1712 – Flamsteed’s Historia Coelestis Britannica logs the positions of 3000 stars, many more than listed in Brahe’s catalogue
1716 – Establishment of the Societa Botanica Florentina
1730 – John Hadley invents the reflecting octant, precursor to the sextant

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