Science and the Scientific Revolution
Science and the Scientific Revolution
SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Although it remains to some extent a contested historiographical conception, most historians of science agree that the designation "scientific revolution" refers in a meaningful way to a period of comparatively rapid and radical change in the understanding of the natural world. During the scientific revolution the world picture shifted from a geocentric, finite cosmos of nested heavenly spheres, which allowed no empty space, to a heliocentric solar system in an infinite universe that was void except where it was dotted with stars. There arose a new worldview in which nature and all its parts were regarded as a giant machine, capable of being understood almost entirely in physical terms. Going hand in hand with this were new theories of motion and of the generation and organization of life, a revised human anatomy, and a new physiology. Use of the experimental method to discover truths about the natural world and of mathematical analysis to help in understanding it, led to the emergence of new forms of organization and institutionalization of scientific study. In particular this period saw the formation of societies devoted to the understanding of the natural world and the exploitation of natural knowledge for the improvement of human life.
THE RENAISSANCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
The scientific revolution resulted from such a huge range of causal factors that it is impossible to give a precise account of its causes. To speak in very general terms, however, it can be seen as a period in which the intellectual authority of traditional natural philosophy gave way to new conceptions of how knowledge is discovered and established with some degree of certainty. Accordingly, it is easy to see that the scientific revolution constitutes an important part of the wider changes in intellectual authority that were characteristic of the Renaissance, and so it can be said to share the same general causes as this major change in European history. A full account of its causes would, therefore, have to encompass the decline of the old feudal system and the rise of commerce, together with the concomitant rise of strong city-states and national monarchies, during a period of increasing decline of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.
Also relevant was the discovery and exploration of the New World and other parts beyond Europe, producing the beginnings of an awareness of cultural relativism as well as a realization that traditional wisdom, such as the impossibility of life in the antipodes, could be, and was, misconceived. The invention of paper, printing, the magnetic compass, and gunpowder also had major cultural and economic repercussions, which can be seen to have had a direct bearing on changes in attitudes to natural knowledge. Furthermore, at a time when natural philosophy was seen as the handmaiden to the "Queen of the Sciences," theology, the fragmentation of western Christianity after the Reformation could hardly fail to have a major impact. Similarly, the recovery of ancient learning by secular humanist scholars, and the emphasis of the humanists themselves on the belief that knowledge should contribute to human dignity and the vita activa (active life) lived pro bono publico (which they held to be morally superior to the vita contemplativa or contemplative life), directly effected the acquisition of knowledge of nature and beliefs about how that knowledge should be used.
Skepticism and empiricism. The humanists' discovery of works like The Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 3d century a.d.) and De natura deorum (On the nature of the gods) by Cicero (106–43 b.c.) made it plain that Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who had become the supreme authority in philosophy during the Middle Ages, was by no means the only philosopher, and was not even the most admired among the ancients themselves. Furthermore, the discovery of writings by other philosophers, including Plato (c. 428–347 b.c.), the neo-Platonists, Stoics,
HISTORIOGRAPHY AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
The historical reality of the scientific revolution has been vigorously contested. In some cases, however, the contention focuses merely on the suitability of the phrase "scientific revolution." Can a revolution take two centuries to be accomplished? Can it be called a revolution if it did not overthrow, against vigorous resistance, something that was there before? Since there was nothing corresponding to what we think of as science before this period in what way was it a scientific revolution? Objections of this kind can be dealt with simply by expressing a willingness to call it something else. But no other designation has ever caught on and, for all its faults, "scientific revolution" seems as good a name for this historical phenomenon as any. There is one much more substantial criticism, however, which claims that the term "revolution" is seriously misleading because of its implication that this period marks a disjunction with the past. Promoting what is called the "continuity thesis," critics who take this line argue that all the seemingly new developments in scientific knowledge were foreshadowed in the medieval period, or can be shown to have grown out of earlier practices or ways of thinking in an entirely continuous way. It seems fair to say, however, that subscribers to the continuity thesis tend to be concerned almost exclusively with developments in the technical and intellectual content of the sciences, where continuities can indeed be shown, and pay scant regard to the social history of science, where discontinuities with the past are much harder to ignore.
Indeed, the continuity thesis can be seen as an outgrowth of a major historiographical division between historians of science. During the early period of the formation of history of science as a discipline, from the beginnings of the cold war, historians of science formed into rival groups, dubbed internalists (who concentrated exclusively upon internal technical developments in science) and externalists (who looked to the influence of the wider culture to explain scientific change). Neither approach was satisfactory. The analyses of the externalists were often too far removed from the actual practice of science to fully understand historical developments. Internalists might have been right to suggest that we can learn more about Newton's work by looking at the work of Johannes Kepler or Galileo Galilei than we could by looking at the Puritan Revolution, but their analyses suggested that history was driven by great men, individual geniuses different from their contemporaries. Internalism completely failed to explain why change was seen to be necessary and how consensus was formed about the validity of new knowledge claims. It also suffered from a built-in whiggism, focusing on ideas or ways of thinking that clearly foreshadowed modern scientific ideas and failing to acknowledge the historical importance of blind alleys, misconceptions, and superseded knowledge.
In the later twentieth century there was something of a rapprochement, largely as a result of the influence of the historian and philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn (1922–1997), and the new sociology of scientific knowledge that grew out of his work. The best of this work in the history of science pays proper attention to both the context within which the science in question is produced and the demands of technical and theoretical restraints and procedures. It is now possible to understand how even the most recondite and technical developments in science must owe something to the social context from which they emerge, although in many cases the relevant context will not be the wider context of the society at large, but the more local context of particular specialist or professional groups and their working milieu. From this perspective, the claims of the continuity thesis are much harder to sustain. Although technical developments in the early modern period can be shown to have a continuity with much earlier theories and practices, the contexts within which these ideas and practices were upheld and used, whether on the macrosociological or microsociological scale, can be seen to be radically different. In the end, then, whether we call it the scientific revolution or not, it remains undeniably true that the means used to acquire and establish knowledge of nature, the institutional setting within which that knowledge was validated and valorized, and the substantive content of that knowledge was vastly different in 1700 from the way it was in 1500.
and Epicureans provided a fund of alternatives to the all-pervasive Aristotelianism. One of the revived ancient philosophies was the skepticism of the later Academy, the much-admired school founded by Plato in Athens. Eclectic attempts to combine the best features of the ancient philosophies met with some success in moral and political philosophy, but were less successful in natural philosophy. One alternative, therefore, was to switch allegiance from Aristotle to Plato, or some other ancient sage. Other natural philosophers, however, perhaps more disoriented or more dismayed by the overthrow of traditional intellectual authority, or perhaps more sympathetic to the revived skepticism, tended to reject recourse to any authority and turned to personal experience as the best means of acquiring knowledge of nature.
This new attitude to the acquisition of knowledge gained further momentum, certainly among Protestant scholars, when Luther rejected the authority of the pope and the priest in religion, and encouraged everyone to read the Bible for themselves. The natural world was often regarded as God's other book, and just as the faithful were now expected to read the Book of Scripture for themselves, so it seemed to devout natural philosophers that God could be served by reading the Book of Nature. Where once natural philosophy had served as "handmaiden" to the doctrinal theology of the Church of Rome, it immediately became more important and more controversial when arguments raged as to who held the true faith. Although the traditional close affiliation between Aristotelianism and Roman Catholicism (brought about largely through the efforts of Thomas Aquinas, 1225–1274), meant that many, especially Catholics, continued to support Aristotelianism, for others it was seen as a Catholic natural philosophy, or a pagan one, and in either case was deemed unsuitable as a support for Christianity.
The time was ripe, therefore, for the development of a new experiential or empiricist approach to the understanding of the physical world. This new attitude was clearly exemplified by the radical Swiss religious, philosophical, and medical reformer known as Paracelsus (1493–1541). He not only wrote reformist works, developing a uniquely original system of medicine, but he also explicitly defended his new approach on empiricist grounds. In an announcement of the course he intended to teach at the University of Basel in 1527, for example, he rejected "that which those of old taught" in favor of "our own observation of nature, confirmed by extensive practice and long experience."
Another revolutionary empiricist was Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), professor of surgery at Padua University. His reputation was based not only on his superbly illustrated anatomical textbook, De humani corporis fabrica (1543), but also on his new method of teaching. Where previously anatomy lecturers read from one of Galen's anatomical works while a surgeon performed the relevant dissections, Vesalius dispensed with the readings and performed his own dissections, talking the students through the procedure and what it revealed. It helped that Vesalius also had an anatomical lecture theater specially built with steeply raked tiers of seats, allowing all students a clear and not-too-distant view of the cadaver. It was easy to justify such detailed anatomical studies on religious and intellectual grounds. Human anatomy revealed the supreme handiwork of God, the great artificer of the world, and knowledge of it was important for the medical practitioner. A number of new discoveries by Vesalius and his successors at Padua, as well as their emphasis on the importance of comparative anatomy for the understanding of the human body, led to William Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood.
Harvey was a student at Padua between 1597 and 1602, and continued with the kind of anatomical study he learned at Padua upon his return to England. Although resisted at first, Harvey's experimental demonstrations of his discovery (published in 1628) were so elegant, and his audience so used by now to the relevance of experiment in revealing truths about nature, that his theory soon became accepted. This meant that the whole system of Galenic physiology, which was based on the assumption that the venous system and the arterial system were separate and unconnected (the former originating from the liver and the latter from the heart) had to be recast. The result was a marshaling of effort by anatomists and physiologists throughout Europe, leading to numerous new discoveries.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of this, from the point of view of the social historian, was an increased respect for medicine that seemed to be based on the latest specialist knowledge of the working of the body and of the physical world. Following Harvey, a vigorous movement known as iatromechanism sought to explain health and disease in terms of the body as a machine consisting of levers driven by hydraulic systems, and the like. Iatromechanism went hand in hand with the mechanical philosophy—the most successful system of natural philosophy developed to replace traditional Aristotelianism, which had become increasingly untenable throughout the seventeenth century. When the mechanical philosophy was subsequently revised in the light of Newton's doctrines, there developed a Newtonian version of iatromechanism. This clear foreshadowing of the more successful scientific medicine that began to be developed in the nineteenth century, essentially owed its origins to the demands of medical students in Padua and throughout Europe for better opportunities for anatomical study. These developments clearly suggest a belief among the early modern public that knowledge of nature is useful for improving medicine, and a willingness among doctors to exploit not only their knowledge of nature, but also their knowledge of public expectation.
Magic and pragmatism. We have seen how the Renaissance revival of skepticism, together with a new awareness that Aristotle was never the unique philosophical giant that the Middle Ages had taken him to be, led to a rejection of authority and increased attempts to establish the truth about things for oneself. The revival of magic during the Renaissance had a similar effect. As a result of church opposition to its more demonological aspects, magic tended to be excluded from the medieval universities and became widely separated from natural philosophy, both intellectually and institutionally. The only exception to this was astrology, which was taught in the medical faculties as an essential aid for the medical practitioner in prognosis and diagnosis. Unfortunately, as with the other aspects of natural magic (that is, magic supposedly based on the natural but occult powers of physical bodies), astrology also attracted the attentions of mountebanks and frauds seeking only to make money out of a gullible public. The result was that magic in general seemed disreputable to most natural philosophers. The image of magic dramatically changed, however, as a result of the Renaissance recovery of various ancient magical texts, especially the Hermetic corpus, a body of magical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who was taken to be an ancient sage, contemporaneous with or perhaps even older than Moses. It is now known that the Hermetic writings date from about the first century a.d. or later, but because they were held to be written at about the same time as the Pentateuch they were regarded as one of the earliest records of human wisdom. It seemed that magic was a respectable pursuit after all and its study enjoyed a huge revival in the Renaissance.
This in turn provided a further boost to the rise of empiricism. The natural magic tradition was always based on empirical, or trial and error, methods for bringing about particular effects. Critics of the magical tradition, indeed, decried its excessive empiricism and its lack of theoretical, explanatory grounding. According to Aristotelian natural philosophy physical phenomena should be explained in terms of the four causes and the four manifest qualities. Occult qualities were those which defeated efforts to reduce them to the manifest qualities and could not, therefore, be accommodated in Aristotelian explanations. The failure of occult qualities to fit in with Aristotelian theory was once seen as damaging criticism, but by the end of the sixteenth century it began to be seen as so much the worse for Aristotelian theory. From Francis Bacon's (1561–1626) suggestion that astrology, natural magic, and alchemy are sciences of which "the ends and pretences are noble," to Isaac Newton's (1642–1727) insistence that the cause of gravity remained occult in spite of his mathematical account of the universal principle of gravitation, natural magic came to be amalgamated with natural philosophy. The resulting hybrid is recognizable to us today as being closer to modern science than scholastic Aristotelian natural philosophy could ever have been. Certainly the empiricism and the practical usefulness which we regard as characteristic of science today were never features of traditional natural philosophy before the scientific revolution, but they were taken-for-granted aspects of the magical tradition. Traditional natural philosophy was concerned to explain phenomena in terms of causes, the new natural philosophy could forgo causative explanations in favor of a reliable knowledge of facts and how they might be exploited for human advantage.
If the rise of magic was made possible by its newly acquired respectability after the recovery of the Hermetic corpus, its adoption in practice owed more to its promise of pragmatic usefulness than to any Hermetic doctrine. The same concern for the pragmatic uses of knowledge can be seen in the increasing attention paid by scholars and other intellectuals to the techniques and the craft knowledge of artisans. Some notable individuals took pains to discover the secrets of specific areas of craft know-how and to communicate them to scholars, while others remained content to talk in general terms of the potential importance of craft knowledge. The Spanish humanist and pedagogue, Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540), for example, acknowledged the importance of trade secrets in his encyclopedia, De disciplinis (On the disciplines; 1531). Francis Bacon, lord chancellor of England, similarly, wanted to include the knowledge and techniques of artisans in a projected compendium of knowledge which was to form part of his Instauratio magna (Great Restoration), a major reform of learning. Bacon's influence in this regard can be seen not only in various groups of social reformers in England during the Civil War years and the interregnum, but also in the Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, one of the earliest societies devoted to acquiring and exploiting knowledge of nature (1660). The Society made a number of repeated attempts, using specially produced questionnaires, to ask its members to return information about local craft techniques and artisans' specialist knowledge in and around their places of residence. The idea was to produce a "History of Trades" to supplement the usual natural histories.
PATRONS, COLLECTORS, AND SOCIETIES
The emphasis upon the pragmatic usefulness of knowledge found further support from the increasing number of secular patrons in the Renaissance period. The earliest groupings of empiricist investigators of nature all seem to have been brought together by wealthy patrons, particularly by sovereigns and princes. Indeed the royal courts must have been one of the major sites for bringing together scholars and craftsmen, which we have already seen was one of the characteristic features of the scientific revolution. The amazingly elaborate court masques and festivals, conceived in order to display publicly the magnificence and glory of the
SCHOLARS AND CRAFTSMEN
From the sixteenth century onward the Aristotelian natural philosophy, which dominated the curricula in university arts faculties all over Europe, came increasingly under attack. One focus of that attack was the contemplative nature of the Aristotelian philosophy (as it was taught), and the lack of any concern with practical knowledge. Some scholars sought to correct this by deliberately seeking out craft knowledge and reporting it to their fellow scholars. One of the major examples of this can be seen in the increasingly economically important area of mining and metallurgy. The first printed account of Renaissance mining techniques, including instructions on the extraction of metals from their ores, how to make cannons, and even how to make gunpowder, was De la pirotechnia (1540) of Vannoccio Biringuccio (1480–1539). Written in Italian by a mining engineer who rose to the rank of director of the papal arsenal in Rome, it was evidently intended as an instruction manual for others working in similar circumstances to Biringuccio himself. This can be compared with De re metallica (1556) of Georgius Agricola (1494–1555). Agricola was a humanist scholar who taught Greek at Leipzig University before turning to medicine. Practicing in a mining area, and initially interested in the medicinal uses of minerals and metals, he soon developed a compendious knowledge of mining and metallurgy. The fact that De re metallica was published in Latin shows that it was aimed at an audience of university-trained scholars, not at miners or foundry workers. Furthermore, the book's numerous editions and wide dissemination throughout Europe show that Agricola did not misjudge the audience.
A similar interest in the smelting of ores and the recovery of metals can also be seen in the first systematic study of magnets and magnetism, De magnete of 1600, published by a royal physician to Elizabeth I of England, William Gilbert (1544–1603). Although principally concerned to use the spontaneous movements of magnets to show how the earth itself might also move (Gilbert was the first to realize that the earth was a giant magnet), in order to support the Copernican theory, Gilbert also took the opportunity to report on all the practical know-how associated with magnets. As well as the metallurgical aspects, therefore, he also wrote at length on the use of the magnet in navigation, with a great deal of extra information on navigation besides. In this he explicitly drew upon the work of Robert Norman (fl. 1590), a retired mariner and compass maker who had recently discovered a way of using magnets to determine longitude even when the heavenly bodies were obscured by clouds or fog.
Although there undoubtedly was an increased awareness of craft know-how and a willingness to accept and exploit its practical usefulness, it is important to avoid overstating the case. During the 1930s and 1940s a number of marxist historians seemed to forget the role of the scholars in this and to suggest that modern science owed its origins to the working man. The historian Edgar Zilsel (1891–1944) even went so far as to argue that the experimental method was developed by artisans. This in turn led more conservative historians of science, no doubt concerned to deny the validity of marxist approaches, to reject the role of craft knowledge altogether and even to deny that early modern natural philosophers had any concern with practical matters. In the post–cold war age it is easier to see, however, that the knowledge of craftsmen and artisans was taken up by scholars during the scientific revolution but it was chiefly the scholars' idea to do so; it was not something that was imposed upon them by the craftsmen. This, and the fairly obvious fact that there was indeed very little of any immediate practical consequence that resulted from the new collaboration, suggests that the main concern of scholars was to discover new ways of establishing certain knowledge to replace the newly realized inadequacies of ancient authority.
ruler, required a huge team of facilitators. Learned scholars would devise appropriate themes, combining traditional notions of chivalry and honor with more fashionable lessons taken from newly rediscovered classical stories, while architects and engineers would design the elaborate settings intended to illustrate the moral themes, and a vast array of other artisans and craftsmen would be brought together to make it all a breathtaking physical reality. It is hard to imagine a comparable site during the period for the creative collaboration of scholars and craftsmen. Unless, of course, it was one of the many sites where the arts of war were conducted.
If festivals and wars were only occasional affairs, the offer of more long-term patronage to alchemists and other natural magicians, engineers, mathematicians, natural historians, and natural philosophers was obviously done with the aim of increasing the wealth, power, and prestige of the patron. Usually this meant that the patron was most concerned with some practical outcome from the work of these servants of his court. Even in the case of seemingly more remote and abstract physical discoveries, it is possible to see such practical concerns in the background. When Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) discovered the moons of Jupiter and called them the Medicean Stars, after the ruling Medici family of Florence, he was immediately associating his patrons with celestial and divine significance as well as putting them onto the star maps. But he did not stop there. By trying to produce tables of the motions of the moons of Jupiter, which he hoped would provide a means of determining longitude at sea, Galileo was potentially turning his discovery into one of the utmost practical benefit, from which the Medici could hardly fail to gain.
The political potential of natural knowledge was a major reason for Francis Bacon's concern to reform the means of acquiring knowledge and of putting it to use, as described in his various programmatic statements and illustrated in his influential utopian fantasy, The New Atlantis (1627). The most prominent feature of Bacon's utopia is a detailed account of a research institute, called Salomon's House, devoted to acquiring natural and technological knowledge for the benefit of the citizens. Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France clearly recognized the potential of this too, offering their patronage to what were to become the leading scientific societies in Europe, both of which were explicitly modeled on Salomon's House. In the French case at least, the Académie Royale des Sciences (1666) can be seen effectively as an arm of the state. The Royal Society, founded in the year of the restoration of the English monarchy, never gained direct state support from an administration that was preoccupied with more pressing matters. It had to be much more apologetic, therefore, in its attempts to demonstrate its usefulness to the state. Even so, it can be seen from the propagandizing History of the Royal Society of London (1667) and other pronouncements of the leading fellows that the most committed members of the Society, at least, saw their experimental method as a means of establishing truth and certainty and so ending dispute. This, in turn, was presented as a model which could be used to bring an end to the religious disputes that had divided England since before the Civil Wars, and to establish order and harmony in the state. The existence, to say nothing of the success, of the Académie and the Royal Society shows that the new natural philosophy was far more directly concerned with political matters than the natural philosophy of the medieval period.
Another important feature of the interest of wealthy patrons in natural marvels was the development of what were called cabinets of curiosities, collections of mineral, vegetable, and animal rarities and oddities, or of elaborate or allegedly powerful artifacts. Originally envisaged, perhaps, as nothing more than spectacles symbolizing the power and wealth of the collector, the larger collections soon came to be seen as contributing to natural knowledge, providing illustrations of the variety and wonder of God's Creation. The curator of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol's (1529–1595) collection, Pierandrea Mattioli (1500–1577), for example, became one of the leading naturalists of the age. Focusing particularly on the botanical specimens in the collection, Mattioli greatly superseded the work of the ancient authority on botany, Dioscorides (fl. 1st century a.d.), in the influential commentaries included in his Latin edition of Dioscorides's herbal (1554). Part of the success of this work derived from the accurate illustrations, supplied by craftsmen also under Ferdinand's patronage. The larger and more successful collections soon became early tourist attractions, drawing gentlemanly visitors on their "Grand Tours." Perhaps more significant for the spread of natural knowledge was the fact that acquisition of new specimens for the collections demanded extensive networks of interested parties, communicating with one another about the latest discoveries and where to acquire them. Eventually, of course, these collections and their obvious pedagogical uses inspired the formation of the more publicly available botanical gardens, menageries, and museums. Indeed in some cases, the larger collections formed the nucleus of the first public museums. The collection of the Tradescant family, acquired by Elias Ashmole (1617–1692), formed the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, while Sir Hans Sloane's (1660–1753) collection provided an impressive beginning for the British Museum in London.
The new appearance of formal societies or academies devoted to the study of nature is another characteristic of the scientific revolution. In what Bernard de Fontenelle (1657–1757), secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences from 1697, called the "new Age of Academies," groups of thinkers came together to collaborate in the new understanding of the natural world. In some cases the group was called together by a wealthy patron with an interest in natural knowledge and its exploitation. One of the earliest of these was the group of alchemists, astrologers, and other occult scientists brought together at the court of Rudolf II (1552–1612) in Prague, another was the Accademia dei Lincei (Academy of the Lynxes), founded by the marchese di Monticelli, Federico Cesi (1585–1630). The evident attractiveness of such collaborative enterprises can also be seen in the astonishing interest shown by scholars all over Europe in the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, whose intended reforms of learning, based on alchemy, Paracelsianism, and other occult ideas were announced in two manifestos which appeared in 1614 and 1615. In fact, to the disappointment of those like René Descartes (1596–1650) who tried to make contact with them, the Brotherhood seems to have been as fictitious as Salomon's House. If Rosicrucianism came to nothing, however, Bacon's vision, as we have already seen, had profound effect.
The self-consciously reformist attitudes of the early scientific societies, and their public pronouncements of their methods and intentions in journals and other publications, mark them out as completely different from the universities. It used to be said that the universities during this period were moribund institutions, completely enthralled by traditional Aristotelianism, and blind to all innovation. This has now been shown to be completely unjustified, and the important contributions of some members of university arts and medical faculties to scientific change have been reasserted. Nevertheless, it seems fair to say that it was usually individual professors who were innovatory, not the institutions to which they belonged. If there were exceptions to this it was in the smaller German universities, where the local prince might hold greater control over the university by his patronage. A number of such universities introduced significant changes in their curricula. In particular, the introduction of what was known as chymiatria or chemical medicine (embracing Paracelsianism and rival alchemically inspired forms of medicine) as a new academic discipline radically transformed a number of German universities. Even so, for the most part European universities were slow to change and were institutionally committed to traditional curricula. In the case of the new academies or societies, however, the institutions themselves seemed innovatory, and they had a much greater effect on changing attitudes to natural knowledge.
MATHEMATICS, INSTRUMENTS, AND THE UNDERSTANDING OF NATURE
Another important aspect of the scientific revolution was the rise in status of mathematics and mathematicians, and the increasing use of mathematics to understand the physical world. There had always been mathematical practitioners of various kinds throughout the Middle Ages but their disciplines were regarded as inferior to natural philosophy. Mathematicians were able to dramatically revise their roles during the decline of Aristotelianism, capitalizing on their claims to be able to offer certainty at a time when previous intellectual authorities seemed unreliable, and on their claims to be able to fulfill the demand for practically useful know-how.
Like the occult arts, the use of mathematics was always intended to have practical consequences. With the increased opportunities provided by secular patronage, and demands for surveyors, military engineers, navigators, cartographers, and the like, mathematicians were increasingly admired, and held themselves in higher intellectual esteem. This provides the social background for even so technical an innovation as Copernican astronomy, in which the earth, previously held to be stationary at the center of the world system, was held to rotate around its own axis every twenty-four hours and to continuously revolve around the sun. For all but a tiny handful of people, when Nicholas Copernicus's (1473–1543) book appeared in 1543, it simply showed how the geometry of the heavens might be reimagined in order to facilitate the calculations of planetary position demanded for astrology, navigation, and the establishment of church feast days. For Copernicus himself, however, and a few mathematically minded followers, the mathematics was sufficient to reveal the truth of the way things are. For Aristotelians, the mathematics was incapable of explaining how the earth could move. Only physics could do that, and physics made it clear that the earth is incapable of motion through the heavens. Copernicus and his followers accepted that they could not provide a physical explanation of the earth's motion but insisted, against all reason as far as traditional natural philosophers were concerned, that the mathematics was sufficient to show that it must be moving.
The practical success of Copernican astronomy compared to the traditional geocentric astronomy, increasingly held sway and eventually led to the development of a new physics, developed by mathematicians like Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. It is important to note, however, that these developments cannot be properly understood without paying attention to the changing status of mathematics and mathematicians during the scientific revolution. Without those social changes, Copernican theory might have remained merely an instrumentalist way of calculating planetary movements, while the physics of the world system remained the intellectual province of the natural philosopher and, therefore, remained steadfastly geocentric.
The change in status of the mathematician was brought about not only by the mathematical superiority of the new astronomy over the old. Mathematicians were proving increasingly successful in many different areas, usually to great practical benefit. One aspect of this was the development of perspective techniques, which had such an impact on painting and bas-relief. Another was in the development of algebra, which allowed the solution of previously intractable problems. There seem to be two major strands to these developments. On the one hand, thanks to an increasing availability of elementary mathematical education, useful mathematical techniques increasingly found their way into the crafts. This in turn was picked up by those humanist scholars who recognized the importance of craft know-how and its techniques. On the other hand, more elite mathematicians, such as astronomers, increasingly sought to remove the barriers between mathematics and natural philosophy. The subsequent rapid development of algebra strongly suggests that these two strands easily came together. Elite mathematics tended to be concerned with classical geometry, while algebra, being an arithmetical art, seems to have developed first among more lowly practitioners coming out of the more arithmetical elementary abacus schools. It was not long, however, before algebra was increasingly taken up by elite mathematicians.
The difficulty and tedium of many mathematical procedures ensured the invention and promotion of numerous instruments intended to provide much-needed shortcuts for practitioners in the field. Some of these, like the astrolabe, had a long history, but new ones, some more successful and long-lived than others, were continually appearing. (The slide rule, for example, developed out of various calculating devices invented in the seventeenth century and was an essential element in any practical mathematician's kit until the advent of the pocket calculator in the late twentieth century.) Arising out of the mathematical instrument trade came what was called the philosophical instrument trade. The labeling seemed to perpetuate the old distinction between mathematics and natural philosophy but the evidence shows that these new instruments were developed by more elite mathematicians concerned to show the relevance of mathematical know-how to natural philosophy. The model was undoubtedly the magnetic compass, an instrument which worked by the occult power of the magnet but which was clearly an aid for the mathematical art of navigation. Perhaps the most powerful and exciting philosophical instruments were the telescope and the microscope, but there were others which proved to be extremely important, such as the barometer, the air pump, and the thermometer. In all cases the increasingly routine use of such instruments further reinforced the validity and superiority of the empirical approach to the understanding of nature. Similarly, they provided further dramatic evidence of the usefulness of the new science. The barometer, originally produced to demonstrate a theory about the nature of the void and the working of pumps, quickly became useful for indicating changing weather conditions, and the telescope was never confined to looking at the stars but was immediately put to more mundane uses.
SCIENCE IN A RELIGIOUS SOCIETY
The medieval belief that natural philosophy should be a handmaiden to theology thrived throughout the scientific revolution. For the most part, assumptions that natural truths and truths about religion could not be incompatible with one another (both being established by God) meant that natural philosophy and religion could keep a healthy distance apart. The Roman Catholic Church was unconcerned about the implications of Copernican astronomy, for example, until the highly ambitious Florentine mathematician, Galileo, made a public issue of its relevance to Church doctrine. The Church had been happy to regard Copernican astronomy as a hypothetical system used only to facilitate calculations, but Galileo's telescopic discoveries dramatically showed that the traditional Aristotelian world picture could not be physically true. Furthermore, Galileo was among the first to bring to the attention of other intellectuals that some mathematicians were upholding the physical truth of Copernicanism. If it was true, a number of Biblical statements which clearly implied the motion of the sun and the stillness of the earth would have to be cautiously reinterpreted. Since the Roman Catholic Church had recently taken a strict line on scriptural interpretation at the counter-reforming Council of Trent, this was bound to be a delicate matter. Galileo's own amateur efforts to show how these Biblical pronouncements should be treated, in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615), only succeeded in getting him into bigger trouble with his church. The subsequent history of the "Galileo affair," up to his condemnation in 1633, must be seen as a series of unfortunate circumstances, often exacerbated by Galileo's own thoughtlessness and misjudgment of others. It cannot be seen, however, as a clear sign that religion and science were fundamentally opposed to one another. Galileo's condemnation by the Congregation of the Holy Office was the result of an unfortunate series of historical contingencies, not the inevitable result of some supposed inherent antagonism between a powerful church and the study of nature. For the majority of Renaissance and early modern thinkers, the study of nature continued to be a way of worshiping God.
In spite of the continuity of the science-as-handmaiden tradition and the continuing efforts of orthodox natural philosophers to show the usefulness of their natural philosophies for supporting religion, there can be no doubt that the new natural philosophies also contributed to the rise of atheism from the late sixteenth century. The first signs of the rise of atheism can be seen in the thought of a number of rationalist Aristotelian thinkers who, stimulated by the Renaissance recovery of more reliable texts of Aristotle's works than those known to the Middle Ages, denied God's providence and the immortality of the soul. The rediscovery of ancient Epicureanism, thanks to the discovery of a single copy of Lucretius's (c. 99–c. 55 b.c.) De rerum natura in 1473 and the three letters of Epicurus included in the edition of Diogenes Laertius's Lives of the Philosophers published in 1475, proved to be another major source for would-be atheists. This had major implications for subsequent developments, since the new mechanical philosophy was clearly based upon the atomistic theory of matter, which was the most prominent feature of Epicureanism. The mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century rapidly came to be recognized as the only system of natural philosophy capable of replacing the compendious and comprehensive natural philosophy of Aristotle. Although there were subtly different versions of the mechanical philosophy, they were all based upon the atomistic materialism of Epicureanism.
Atheism and natural theology. All the promoters of the mechanical philosophy, with the possible exception of Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), took pains to insist that their philosophy was based entirely upon theistic assumptions. There can be little doubt, however, that a significant number of their readers ignored these theistic claims and embraced a mechanistic philosophy that was to all intents and purposes atheistic. It is not easy, before the eighteenth century, to find individuals who can be singled out as atheists, but it seems clear from the vast anti-atheist literature emanating from the pens of churchmen and the more devout natural philosophers, that growing numbers of atheists seemed to the faithful to pose a threat to morality and social order. The mechanical systems of Hobbes and Descartes were usually seen to offer the easiest footholds for atheists. Hobbes was an extreme materialist and seemed to imply that God too must be a material being. This was usually taken at the time as a not-too-subtle way of hinting at atheism without actually putting one's head in the noose, but a few historians now claim that Hobbes was in fact a subscriber to a recognized form of radical Calvinism. Although Descartes's system was clearly based on theistic presuppositions, it no longer required God's intervention after the initial Creation. According to Descartes, God established the laws of nature which particles of matter had to obey, then set the whole world system in motion. From then on, the system wheeled on and on as the result of the collisions and interactions of particles of matter in a vast cosmic clockwork. Given that a prominent argument of early-sixteenth-century Aristotelian atheists had been that, contrary to Judeo-Christian claims, the world has always existed throughout eternity, it was an easy matter for Cartesian atheists to dispense with the Creation and suppose that the Cartesian world had always been turning in accordance with the blind laws of nature.
Attempts to avoid, or scotch, these atheistic interpretations of the new philosophies account for numerous prominent characteristics of the systems and the way they were presented. Underlying the dispute between Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) about the nature of God's Providence, for example, were different sensitivities to the social threat of atheism. Leibniz was willing to uphold a rationally based Cartesian approach, in which God's omnipotence enabled him to create a cosmic clockwork that never needed subsequently to be wound up or adjusted. For Newton (represented in this clash with Leibniz by his friend, Samuel Clarke, 1675–1729), more conscious of the excesses of the interregnum period in England, which were often attributed to irreligion, this was to provide a hostage to atheists. Newton, accordingly, insisted that God must occasionally intervene in his Creation, and be seen (by the right-thinking natural philosopher at least) to do so. Unappreciative of the political fears underlying Newton's position, Leibniz regarded Newton's vision of God as a scandal, seeing God as a cosmic tinker incapable of getting his clockwork to function smoothly.
Such examples could easily be multiplied. The general point to note is that, in all cases where theology seems to be playing a prominent role in early modern natural philosophy, what might seem like entirely abstract arguments of philosophical theology can be seen to reflect real social concerns about the threat to society supposedly presented by those who have no moral restraints imposed by religion.
It is easy to see, therefore, that throughout the period of the scientific revolution, natural philosophy had to take account of and often defer to religion and its institutions, and that this shaped the nature of early modern science. Some historians have gone further than this, however, and have suggested that it was religion itself which somehow stimulated an increased interest in and social sanctification of the study of the natural world. The active stimulation of religion can readily be seen in the work of very devout individuals, like Robert Boyle (1627–1691), and more generally in certain fields, such as comparative anatomy and other detailed extensions of more traditional natural history, especially those made possible with microscopy. For example, the entomological studies of Jan Swammerdam (1637–1680), based on the meticulous dissection of insects, were largely pursued for the glory of God. His studies of comparative anatomy appeared posthumously under the title Biblia Naturae (Bible of Nature) in 1737. The belief that nature was God's other book, the study of which was a religious duty equivalent to reading the Book of Scripture, found its fullest expression in the tradition of natural theology (using nature to prove the omnipotence and benevolence of God), an almost exclusively British tradition which originated in the seventeenth century and flourished throughout the eighteenth century and up to the advent of Darwinism in the nineteenth.
There is another more controversial aspect to this claim about the positive stimulus provided by religion, however, and that is the suggestion that the sudden burgeoning of science in seventeenth-century England was closely associated with, if not caused by, the rise of Puritanism. First suggested in the 1930s, most influentially by the sociologist Robert K. Merton (b. 1910), this has always been a highly contested thesis. The debate has certainly led to a vastly improved historical understanding of the relations between science and religion in seventeenth-century England but it is immediately obvious that it is too Anglocentric to provide a satisfactory account of the rise of science in general, which was a Europe-wide phenomenon.
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
The scientific revolution was not a revolution in science, since there was nothing recognizable as science in the period before it. What has made the period seem revolutionary to historians of science is the fact that the beginnings of modern science could clearly be discerned for the first time. The use of the experimental method and the techniques of analyzing the world in mathematical terms are now entirely characteristic of science. It is now taken for granted that scientific knowledge is, or should be, useful for the amelioration of the human condition. Before the Renaissance, these features of modern science were not sufficiently closely allied to the study of natural philosophy to contribute to an understanding of the natural world. The goal of natural philosophy before the scientific revolution was to understand nature in abstract philosophical terms, not to exploit it. By contrast, the exploitative nature of naturalistic concerns during the scientific revolution is so marked that it has been singled out by feminist historians as a major feature of the revolution itself and the beginnings of another characteristic aspect of western science, its use for the subjection of women. What made the scientific revolution, then, was the bringing together of these separate elements and approaches to make out of traditional natural philosophy, the so-called mixed mathematical sciences, natural magic, and other more utilitarian concerns, something very like modern science. In the process, each of the ingredients became impressively extended and radically transformed, some beyond recognition, and the resulting combination formed something entirely new.
The major impetus for these changes can be seen to lie principally in the demand for practically useful knowledge from wealthy patrons or other clients, or the perception of that demand from would-be incipient professionals, seeking to make a living. It is important to note, however, that the promise of utility ran far ahead of what was achieved in practical terms. The major achievements of the scientific revolution, the establishment of heliocentric astronomy, Newton's laws of motion, the circulation of the blood, and the like, were not ones which could immediately be put to use in any practical way. This is one reason why some historians of science have denied the importance of the social changes underlying the scientific revolution, preferring to look at the actual achievements and seeking explanations in purely intellectual terms. It is certainly true that erstwhile marxist claims, for example, that Newton wrote the Principia mathematica philosophia naturalis (1687) in response to economic demands for a better science of ballistics, are almost entirely overstated. Nevertheless, it remains impossible to understand Newton's scientific achievement without considering the social changes in the relationship between mathematics and natural philosophy, which were largely brought about by increasing awareness of the potential utility and certainty of mathematical results. In the age previous to Newton's there was natural philosophy, based on speculative principles of physical causation, and there was mathematics, based upon completely abstract principles of numbers and lines. By the time Newton wrote his great book, he could refer easily, even in his title, to the mathematical principles of natural philosophy, something that would have made no sense a century before. Those mathematical principles, together with other aspects of the scientific revolution, pointed the way to modern science.
PURITANISM AND SCIENCE
Alphonse de Candolle (1806–1893), a leading Swiss botanist, became a pioneer of quantitative social history in 1885 when he compared the proportions of Protestant to Roman Catholic scientists in the Académie Royale des Sciences and the membership of the British Royal Society with the proportion of Protestants to Catholics in the general population. He concluded that Protestantism was much more conducive to science than Catholicism was. A link between Puritanism and the encouragement of science was suggested as an explanation for the remarkable burgeoning of science in seventeenth-century England by two American historians, Dorothy Stimson (1935) and Richard Foster Jones (Ancients and Moderns; 1936). This claim was most influentially stated, however, by the sociologist Robert K. Merton (Science, Technology, and Society in Seventeenth-Century England; 1938), who presented it as a special case of the link between the Protestant ethic and the "spirit of capitalism," which had been proposed in 1904 by one of the founding fathers of the discipline of sociology, Max Weber (1864–1920). Although remaining a controversial thesis, it received influential support from the eminent historian of the Puritan Revolution, Christopher Hill (Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution; 1965), and perhaps its most powerful support in the work of the English historian of science and medicine, Charles Webster (The Great Instauration; 1976).
Proponents of the thesis are careful to deny a simple causal relationship between the rise of Puritanism and the rise of science. It is readily acknowledged that only a multicausal explanation can adequately account for the sudden rise of English science, and that the rise of Puritanism is only one factor. Indeed, it is generally acknowledged that the rise of Puritanism itself must be seen as being caused by a range of social and economic factors, many of which also stimulated increased interest in, and valuation of, scientific study. To some extent, therefore, wider changes led to the rise of both Puritanism and science, but this is not to diminish the relevance of Puritanism to the rise of science, since, as Merton pointed out, the dominant means of cultural expression at this time was through religious values. Inevitably, therefore, study of the natural world would tend to be directed by and justified in terms of religious beliefs. Stated in these general terms it seems impossible to deny that the rise of science in England paralleled the dramatic changes in English religion following the rise of English Calvinism from the reign of Edward VI (1547–1553) to the Parliamentary Rebellion of 1642, and continued to do so right into the Restoration period when English science could be said to have led the world.
Science and society since the seventeenth century. The perceived success of Newtonian mathematical physics had astonishing and unprecedented effects. A new faith in the power of science led not only to major reforms of traditional subjects like alchemy and optics, but also to the formation of new branches of
WOMEN, SCIENCE, AND THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION
Modern science has been a major focus of concern for feminist philosophers, sociologists, and historians. Once declared by a leading feminist philosopher to be "an unexamined myth," the belief that science was somehow an exclusively masculine pursuit has been exposed to extremely illuminating critical assessment by feminists since the 1980s. This scrutiny has been directed at three aspects of the relationship between gender and science. Feminist historians have looked on the one hand at the way women have been studied by male scientists, and on the other at the roles that women have managed to play in science as a vocation, a profession, or a pastime. Meanwhile, feminist philosophers of science have looked at the grounds for, and sought to correct, all-too-common assumptions that science is gendered, and that its gender is masculine.
One of the earliest historical treatments of these themes was Carolyn Merchant's profound historical attempt to trace the roots of the modern belief that science was an essentially masculine pursuit. Significantly, in her book The Death of Nature (1980), she traced those roots back to the origins of modern science itself during the scientific revolution. Although a number of aspects of her book are contested, it remains an important, groundbreaking work. In particular she was the first to point to the increased use of sexual metaphors by the new natural philosophers who wanted to insist that knowledge of nature ought to be exploited for the benefit of man. Standard masculine assumptions about sexual politics came to be applied figuratively to "Mother Nature." Those who wished to join the ranks of the new kind of natural philosophers were urged by the vanguard to capture and ravish Nature, to penetrate her inner chambers. One way or another, the relationship between man and knowledge of nature was likened to the relationship between man and woman. For Francis Bacon, lord chancellor of England and would-be reformer of knowledge, it was important "that knowledge may not be as a curtesan, for pleasure and vanity only, or as a bond-woman, to acquire and gain to her master's use; but as a spouse, for generation, fruit and comfort." Such talk clearly reinforced, if any reinforcement were needed, assumptions about the passive nature of women and their role in serving men, but it also engendered an influential view of the study of nature as a masculine enterprise.
Merchant's work was followed up by others, focusing on different aspects of the story. The close links between natural philosophy and theology, for example, led to claims that western science was always "a religious calling," pursued throughout the Middle Ages within a clerical culture, and maintaining the image of the scientist as a priest of the Book of Nature even into the modern era. Accordingly, just as women were excluded from the priesthood, they were also excluded from the ranks of those deemed fit to mediate between the commonalty and God's Creation. It seems that even the courtly origins of the new scientific societies were insufficient to overcome such prejudice against women. Although noble women seem to have played some minor roles in learned circles at court, when such informal groupings became academies or societies, women were excluded (except in the Italian academies at Bologna, Padua, and Rome, where a few exceptional women were admitted as fellows). If these were the beginnings of the exclusion of women from science, in succeeding ages, as other historians have shown, women came to be considered mentally and constitutionally unfit for scientific research. By the late eighteenth century, the science from which they were excluded had turned its attention to women as scientific subjects, and male scientists established, to their own satisfaction, that women did not, and could not, measure up to men.
In spite of the barriers raised against them, a few women did manage to make their mark in the scientific revolution. Although earlier suggestions that Lady Anne Conway (1631–1679) was an influence upon the great German philosopher G. W. Leibniz may be exaggerated, her credentials as a thinker are ironically suggested by the fact that it was once assumed that her book, Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophies (1690) was written by a man. The authorship of Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673), duchess of Newcastle, was never in doubt for any of the six books of natural philosophy that she wrote, but perhaps for that reason they were treated with condescension at best, and ridicule at worst. Émilie du Châtelet (1706–1749), a gifted mathematician who helped to introduce the work of Leibniz and Newton to French philosophical audiences by her translation of Newton's Principia into French (1759), and by her own popularizing Institutions de physique (1740), died of childbed fever before managing to overcome the diffidence that kept her from original work. Unfortunately, therefore, the remarkable achievements of these women, and one or two others like them, serve as impressive but only partial indicators of what women might have been able to do if the sociological and cultural position of women had been anywhere near comparable to men's.
science, such as the study of electricity, and even to new sciences, geology and biology for example. Biology was envisaged as an attempt to explain the workings of the organic world in accordance with laws of nature, analogous to Newton's laws of motion, and was completely different from the merely descriptive natural history that had gone before. Newtonianism even inspired the new sciences of man which developed in the late eighteenth century. Philosophers believed that morality and political economy could also be established in a mathematically certain lawlike way. It was no accident that the morality of utilitarianism, developed in Britain by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and James Mill (1773–1836), was believed to derive from a "moral calculus" analogous to the mathematical calculus developed by Newton and others. In late eighteenth-century France, thanks to Voltaire (1694–1778) and other Anglophiles, even the much-admired constitutional monarchy established after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was seen as an outcome of the rational empiricist tradition in English science heralded by Francis Bacon, and triumphantly established by Robert Boyle (1627–1691), Newton, and John Locke (1632–1704). Newtonianism or perhaps some rather more scientistic debasement of it can be seen, therefore, as a major aspect of the intellectual background to the French Revolution. Certainly by the nineteenth century, scientific knowledge was rapidly becoming the new intellectual authority in an increasingly secular world. Accordingly, the natural sciences took an increasingly large place in education at all levels and came to be recognized as having a major role to play in more and more aspects of life and culture. This in turn stimulated specialization in different fields of science and led to professionalization.
The culmination of increasing tension between secular science and the traditional authority of religion occurred with the announcement of the theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) in 1858. This theory grew out of the tradition of moral calculus and the inexorable workings of laws of nature which were inspired by eighteenth century Newtonianism. Darwin and Wallace independently arrived at the principle of natural selection after reading Thomas Malthus's (1766–1834) Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), a work of political economy in the Newtonian mold, which had been written to oppose a reform of the poor law proposed by Prime Minister William Pitt (1759–1806). Malthus warned that poor relief would only allow the poor to propagate and place an even greater burden on the state. Better to let the poor starve now, he suggested, than that greater numbers should have to die later. The two experienced naturalists recognized straight away that the doctrine of "survival of the fittest"—a slogan first coined by Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), a Malthusian social theorist—fitted the natural world as well as human society.
Although meeting with vigorous opposition from a number of quarters, the theory was so closely linked to earlier traditions of Newtonian political economy, including the influential laissez-faire principles developed by Adam Smith (1723–1790) and his followers, and so well supported by data from the natural world that it eventually carried the day. The established religions for the most part had to accommodate themselves to Darwinian evolution, while a number of aggressively secular movements in the social sciences used the theory to promote Social Darwinism, eugenics, and other supposedly scientifically based means of social control. The intellectual authority of science was by now so powerful that the moral acceptability, even desirability, of eugenics was routinely embraced by both the left and right of the political spectrum.
The growth and success of the physical sciences took off exponentially after World War II when government organizations, especially the military, and large industrial concerns, particularly among the growing number of multinational corporations, began to fund scientific research. This was to lead to what has been called "Big Science," a massive change in the social organization and political significance of science. The result of this was not only that the late twentieth century became a period of incredibly rapid scientific advance, but also that science and scientific values permeated every aspect of daily life.
The ensuing tendency to let scientific values determine moral and political choices has certainly not been free from problems. Although the great success of the physical sciences led to the technological developments which have enabled Western culture and capitalism to dominate the world, it has also led to real fears as to whether the world as a whole can sustain these phenomenal changes. In the middle of the twentieth century humankind saw its very existence threatened by the nuclear weaponry which had developed indirectly out of Albert Einstein's (1879–1955) attempt to resolve problems in late nineteenth-century physics. By the end of the century, however, the danger seemed to come less from the threat of a sudden cataclysm and more from the gradual destruction of the ecological balance of the world system brought about by our thoroughly scientific society. The result of these developments is that an increasing amount of hostility has been directed towards science in recent decades. Those who wish to defend science, however, point to the obvious fact that it is science which has alerted us to the dangers of global warming and other ecological threats, and that if a solution to these dangers is to be found, it is as likely to come from science as from political economy.
See alsoThe Enlightenment; The Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reformation; The Renaissance (volume 1);Medical Practitioners and Medicine (volume 4);Church and Society; Magic (volume 5); and other articles in this section.
Cohen, H. Floris. The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry. Chicago, 1994.
Cohen, I. Bernard. Revolution in Science. Cambridge, Mass., 1985.
Dear, Peter. Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700. London and Princeton, N.J., 2001.
Henry, John. The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science. New York, 1997.
Jacob, Margaret C. The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution. New York, 1988.
Jardine, Lisa. Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution. New York, 1999.
Keller, Evelyn Fox. Reflections on Gender and Science. New Haven, Conn., and London, 1985.
Lindberg, David C., and Robert S. Westman, eds. Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, U.K., 1990.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution. San Francisco, 1980.
Porter, Roy, and M. Teich, eds. The Scientific Revolution in National Context. Cambridge, U.K., 1992.
Schiebinger, Londa. The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science. Cambridge, Mass., 1989.
Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution. Chicago, 1996.
Scientific Revolution and the Renaissance
Eamon, William. Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. Princeton, N.J., 1994.
Evans, R. J. W. Rudolf II and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576–1612. Oxford, 1973.
Field, J. V., and F. A. J. L. James, eds. Renaissance and Revolution: Humanists, Scholars, Craftsmen, and Natural Philosophers in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, U.K., 1993.
Popkin, Richard H. The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza. Rev. ed. Berkeley, Calif., 1979.
Roper, Hugh Trevor. "The Paracelsian Movement." In his Renaissance Essays. Chicago, 1985.
Rossi, Paolo. Francis Bacon: From Magic to Science. Translated by Sacha Rabinovitch. London, 1968.
Rossi, Paolo. Philosophy, Technology, and the Arts in the Early Modern Era. Translated by Salvator Attanasio. Edited by Benjamin Nelson. New York, 1970.
Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life. Princeton, N.J., 1985.
Webster, Charles. From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the Making of Modern Science. Cambridge, U.K., 1982.
Patrons, Collectors, and Societies
Biagioli, Mario. Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism. Chicago, 1993.
Findlen, Paula. Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy. Berkeley, Calif., 1994.
Hahn, Roger. The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666–1803. Berkeley, Calif., 1971.
Hunter, Michael. Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society. Woodbridge, U.K., 1989.
Impey, Oliver, and Arthur MacGregor, eds. The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Oxford, 1985.
McClellan, James E., III. Science Reorganized: Scientific Societies in the Eighteenth Century. New York, 1985.
Martin, Julian. Francis Bacon, the State, and the Reform of Natural Philosophy. Cambridge, U.K., 1992.
Moran, Bruce T., ed. Patronage and Institutions: Science, Technology, and Medicine at the European Court, 1500–1750. Woodbridge, U.K., 1991.
Mathematics, Instruments, and the Understanding of Nature
Bennett, J. A. "The Challenge of Practical Mathematics." In Science, Culture, and Popular Belief in Renaissance Europe. Edited by S. Pumfrey, P. Rossi, and M. Slawinski. Manchester, U.K., 1991.
Biagioli, Mario. "The Social Status of Italian Mathematicians, 1450–1600." History of Science 27 (1989): 41–95.
Dear, Peter. Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution. Chicago, 1995.
Hadden, Richard W. On the Shoulders of Merchants: Exchange and the Mathematical Conception of Nature in Early Modern Europe. Albany, N.Y., 1994.
Helden, Albert Van. "The Birth of the Modern Scientific Instrument." In The Uses of Science in the Age of Newton. Edited by John G. Burke. Berkeley, Calif., 1983.
Westman, Robert S. "The Astronomer's Role in the Sixteenth Century: A Preliminary Survey." History of Science 18 (1980): 105–147.
Wilson, Catherine. The Invisible World: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of the Microscope. Princeton, N.J., 1995.
Science in a Religious Society
Brooke, John Hedley. Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives. Cambridge, U.K., 1991.
Cohen, I. Bernard, ed. Puritanism and the Rise of Modern Science: The Merton Thesis. New Brunswick, N.J., 1990.
Hooykaas, R. Religion and the Rise of Modern Science. Edinburgh, 1973.
Hunter, Michael, and David Wootton, eds. Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. Oxford, 1992.
Shea, William R. "Galileo and the Church." In God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science. Edited by David C. Lindberg and Ronald Numbers. Berkeley, Calif., 1986.
Galison, Peter, and Bruce Hevly, eds. Big Science: The Growth of Large-Scale Research. Stanford, Calif., 1992.
Hankins, Thomas L. Science and the Enlightenment. Cambridge, U.K., 1985.
Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Use of Human Heredity. Cambridge, Mass., 1995.
Ospovat, Dov. The Development of Darwin's Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology and Natural Selection, 1838–59. Cambridge, U.K., 1981.
Smith, Crosbie. The Science of Energy: A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain. Chicago, 1998.