Scientific Revolution

A development which arose in the early sixteenth century with the cosmological discoveries of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). Copernicus, going against the current belief that the Earth was stationary and at the center of the universe, hypothesized a Sun-centered (heliocentric) universe with a moveable Earth. Further discoveries by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) confirmed the second of these hypotheses, and added two other discoveries: 1) planetary orbits in the shape of ellipses, and 2) an explanation of the varying speeds of the planets as they orbited - fastest near the Sun, slowest the more outward a planet is from the Sun. In connection to these discoveries, the movement of the planets, the maintenance of their orbits, the basic mathematical structure of the universe, and gravity all came to be understood. From these discoveries, and many more, came an understanding of the universe as a mechanistic structure, dictated by a few principles which seemed to be arranged with amazing mathematical precision.

Many of the discoveries which initiated the Scientific Revolution were greeted with great opposition because of their challenge to traditional and religious conceptions of the universe, e.g., the traditional belief in the Earth being the center of the universe, and thus humanity's ultimate significance in the grand scheme of things. However, centuries later it became common knowledge that God had created this complex universe, with neither the Earth, nor the Sun, being at its center. Further, the laws which were once thought to only govern the realms of "space" were now seen to be applicable to Earth as well. When all was said and done, the major thinkers of the Scientific Revolution (Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Descartes) had revealed a universe which seemed like a perfectly run machine, comprehensible by the human mind and the enlightened scientific understanding it had now gained.

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