​Analyze how Galileo, Descartes, and Newton altered traditional interpretations of nature and challenged traditional sources of knowledge.


Tiffany Thompson & Ezekiel Henshaw-Period 3

Throughout the seventeenth century many new ideas were brought about as a direct result of the Scientific Revolution. These ideas challenged the traditional ways of European thought. With these new concepts, the idea that science could explain everything, while religion could not, began to spread. The revolutionary thinkers of that time altered traditional interpretations of nature and challenged the established sources of knowledge. Among these intellectuals were Galileo Galilei, René Descartes and Isaac Newtown.

Galileo Galilei was a philosopher and a mathematician. Galileo used the telescope to study astronomy. He was able to validate Copernican’s theory of a heliocentric universe. Previously people thought that the Earth was the center of the universe which supported a geocentric universe. Galileo changed the way people viewed the universe and he challenged everything that was once thought to be true about the universe since the days of Ptolemy. He proved that even the universe is subject to mathematical laws. He, like many other modern thinkers of his time, believed that observation should always come before tradition.

René Descartes was a philosopher of modern science. He argued that everything that is not validated by observation should be doubted. His most significant contribution was the development of a scientific method that relied more on deduction then observation and induction. He believed that human reason could fully comprehend the world. Descartes divided all existence into the spiritual and the material. He was able to come to conclusions without letting nonmaterial matters influence him.

Isaac Newton not only tested the belief of God’s intervention in human affairs but established the dominance of science in the modern world. He demonstrated that the natural laws of motion-gravitation-account for the movement of the planets and all other physical objects. Since these laws are constant and predictable, God’s active participation is not needed to explain the process of the forces of nature. This denied the old medieval beliefs. With this Newton was able to explain why the planets moved in an orderly fashion and answered the question that had been asked by many scientists.

These modern thinkers and scientists set the stage for contemporary science and for moving away from traditional ideas and knowledge. They subjected the theories of past intellectuals to the inducted method and redefined the natural world. The outdated way of thinking that Europeans were accustomed to was forever altered by the new advances made by the revolutionary thinkers and scientists.