The Contribution of Isaac Newton to the Scientific Revolution
The Contribution of Isaac Newton to the Scientific Revolution The beginning of the 17th century was a period of drastic change in Europe as many started to approach science. This dawning of modern science introduced new concepts in the understanding of the physical world, and brought along a new stream of “natural philosophers” () including Sir Isaac Newton. The scientific revolution was not marked by any single change, but rather various new ideas from different philosophers, including Newton, helped revolutionize an important epoch in human history.
The impacts due to Newton’s suggestion to abandon medieval philosophies, his contribution to mathematics, astronomy, and physics, and his role in the “Royal Society” will provide an idea of how important Isaac Newton was during the 17th century and the impact he’s had on the revolutionary breakthroughs at the time, as well as on modern society. During the scientific revolution, Newton and many other natural philosophers proposed to abandon medieval scientific philosophies in favor of newer scientific methods (Ames, et al).
The Contribution of Isaac Newton to the Scientific Revolution Essay Example
There were four reasons for why the medieval idea of science was discarded (). The first reason was because many scientists and philosophers during the 17th century were able to collaborate and work alongside mathematicians and astronomers to advance the knowledge in all fields (Rose). This rendered the medieval method of conducting scientific research useless. Another reason was because the natural philosophers at the time realized the ineffectiveness and inadequacy medieval experimental methods provided for their work, and felt that a new method was needed.
Also the world was slowly becoming more globalized, and research papers from the Europeans, Greeks, and Middle Eastern scientific philosophies were all readily available at the time (Ames, et al). Newton, along with other natural philosophers, were able to use a diverse range of starting points to either build on existing theories, or disprove them. The last reason is because of the impact groups such as the “Royal Society” had on science. These organizations helped validate science as a field of work, and helped publicize scientific findings (Ames, et al).
This meant the medieval scientific philosophies were no longer required as a foundation for scientific research. Newton’s proposition to abandon medieval scientific philosophies led to one of the most important changes during the 17th century; how natural philosophers conducted scientific research. This was because the modern hypothesis was born. During the 17th century, natural philosophers started to ask questions emphasizing on answering “what. ” These questions included, “what is the relationship between these two things? or “what are the facts to suggest this? ” (Ames, et al). It was a major breakthrough because it required finding facts before a hypothesis can be formulated. A hypothesis in the 17th century must be accompanied by various observations, and only after these requirements have been met can a scientist conduct tests with a controlled experiment (Ames, et al). This revolutionary change eventually led to the “experimental method,” which in turn has impacted the way chemists, biologists and physicists conduct experiments today (Rose).
Newton, along with the other natural philosophers’ decision to abandon the medieval scientific philosophy helped reaffirm the importance of conducting experiments to science. The pursuit of science (rather than philosophy) gained validity, and the importance of God to science was tremendously, but not fully, invalidated. This meant that there was a transition from focusing on supernatural viewpoints to a humanistic viewpoint. Religion and superstition were replaced by reason and knowledge.
This change in attitude was an essential step during the 17th century. Prior to the scientific revolution, natural philosophers lacked the instruments and methods required to verify their observational and experimental ideas (Rose). This handicap forced these philosophers to rely on the church and the ancient world. Figures such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, and God were considered to be the sources of truth (Ames, et al). This caused the scientific ideas at the time to be lost; the natural philosophers were forced to accept the teachings of the church.
This notion all changed during the 17th century, when skepticism about religion and authoritative figures of the past became wide-spread due to the continued growth of a literate middle class (Hatch). Many started to read the Bible and interpret it in their own understandings rather than blindly following the teachings of the church. Religion was being challenged as the authority and foundation for knowledge. Due to Newton’s suggestion to desert medieval scientific philosophies, the scientific hypothesis was born, which in turn created doubt and skepticism about religion.
Many sought answers elsewhere, and started turning to science for truths. The transition from medieval scientific philosophies created a new mindset and approach to nature. Many scientists in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, math and astronomy created enormous contributions to the field of science, including Sir Isaac Newton himself. Isaac Newton’s first discovery was the concept that white light is composed of different colors (Steinbock 28).
By using the new hypothesis which Newton was partially responsible for creating, he demonstrated through a series of experiments that prisms separate white light, rather than modify it. Newton also contradicted the theories of Aristotle by stating that white light is heterogeneous, while the separate colors are homogeneous (Hatch). When his work was published, Newton stated that the purpose of his work was to, “propose and prove [the properties of light] by Reason and Experiments” (Hatch). This further validated the use of the new hypothesis, where everything must be proved through facts and observations.
Newton’s work extended beyond just light, into the realm of numbers. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz are both responsible for the invention of calculus, though the two men developed calculus independently. Their work is still extremely significant to the understanding of the physical world, because calculus enables Man to explain the rate of change of anything that is not uniform. Before this momentous development, there have always been contradictions with dividing by zero, as well as adding infinitely large numbers.
The ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea even gave examples of such inconsistencies (“Zeno of Elea”). Calculus provided the tools, through “limits”, to solve these problems. Even today calculus is used in all branches of science, business, and even medicine. Yet perhaps the most famous of Newton’s work is his contribution to the field physics. He is the man responsible for creating the theory of Gravity because of the famous apple incident. Another major contribution Newton had on physics were his three laws of motion, which are considered a foundation for anyone studying physics.
What is so significant about Newton is that almost 400 years after his death, his findings in optics, mathematics, and physics are still commonly taught and used to this day. Along with the progress made in science as an independent discipline from philosophy during the 17th century, many scholars began to form organizations as centers of “thought and intellectual exchange” (Ames, et al). Newton was part of the committee who established one of the most influential scientific organizations, the “Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge ()” (Ames, et al).
This society’s fundamental purpose is to “recognize, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity” (The Royal Society). This association was a major contributor to the scientific developments from the 17th century and onwards. The Royal Society was an important part of the history of science, because it both fostered discussions between scientists, and was an academy for scientific studies in Europe. Accomplished scientists, such as Newton, would exchange ideas through discussions with equally intelligent individuals, as well as publicize their articles and findings.
Newton was funded money by this society to continue his research, and it was with the help of the Royal Society that enabled Newton to both conduct his research and publish his findings (O’Connor, and Robertson). Due to his influence, Newton would become the president of the Royal Society in the later years of his life. Many highly respected scientists joined the Royal Society, including Robert Boyle, William Petty, and Francis Bacon (Ames, et al). All of these members benefited from the collaborations within the organization, and the publicity generated due to their published works.
This meant that not only did Sir Isaac Newton contribute a lot to the knowledge of Man, but he also helped create a foundation and stepping stone for prospective bright minds. Even today, the Royal Society plays a key role in the discussion, design, and development of modern sciences and experimental methods (The Royal Society). Sir Isaac Newton was a man who greatly influenced the world, both during his time on Earth, as well as the legacy he leaves behind. He was partially responsible for introducing the new scientific method into this world, forever changing the way scientists conduct experiments.
He was a man who managed to shed a scientific light during an era where people were religiously oppressed. His intelligence allowed him to discover new ideas in three fields of scientific studies; optics, mathematics, and physics. Even after Newton’s death, his legacy remains in the form of the Royal Society, as well as in all the scientific contributions he has instilled upon this world. Isaac Newton must have been an extraordinary gift to his parents when was born on Christmas day, 1642. But he was more than that; he was an extraordinary gift to mankind. Works Cited Ames, Lauren, Jo Kent, Amneet Gulati, and Adam Purtee. The Impact of the Scientific Revolution. ” Connexions. Connexions, 6 Jan. 2006. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. <http://cnx. org/content/m13245/latest/>. Cherubin, Rose. “The Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century. ” The Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century. N. p. , n. d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013. <http://classweb. gmu. edu/rcherubi/ancient/srfr. htm>. Hatch, Robert A. , Dr. “Isaac Newton Biography – Newton’s Life, Career, Work. ” Isaac Newton Biography – Newton’s Life, Career, Work – Dr Robert A. Hatch. N. p. , 30 Nov. 1999. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <http://web. clas. ufl. du/users/ufhatch/pages/01-courses/current-courses/08sr-newton. htm>. O’Connor, J. , and E. Robertson. “Sir Isaac Newton. ” Newton Biography. MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, Jan. 2000. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <http://www-history. mcs. st-and. ac. uk/Biographies/Newton. html>. The Royal Society. “About Us. ” About the Royal Society. N. p. , n. d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <http://royalsociety. org/about-us/>. Ted Steinbock, MD, comp. Isaac Newton and the Scientific Revolution. N. p. : Mountain Goat, 2006. Print. “Zeno of Elea. ” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 9 Jan.