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Scientific Thinkers Activity. As you read, focus on location, time period, contributions, & importance of each person. Nicolaus Copernicus.

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scientific thinkers activity

Scientific Thinkers Activity

As you read, focus on location, time period, contributions, & importance of each person

nicolaus copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) was a Polish astronomer and mathematician who believed that the Earth spun on its axis every day and revolved around a non-moving Sun once every year. This theory profoundly altered later workers' view of the universe, but was rejected by the Catholic Church when it was published.

After studying a variety of subjects (liberal arts, medicine, law, mathematics, and astronomy) at a number of universities, Copernicus eventually began to focus his energies on astronomy and mathematics. Around 1514, he published a book known as the Little Commentary that gave a brief description of his heliocentric theory. Towards the end of his life, Copernicus published his most famous work – On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. In it, Copernicus explained in detail his heliocentric theory and proved it was possible to explain the movement of planets without placing the earth at the center of the universe.

Copernicus’ heliocentric theory had a great impact on both the Scientific Revolution and science as a whole. By questioning previously accepted truths (like Ptolemy’s geocentric theory) and proposing an alternative theory based on mathematical laws, Copernicus inspired later astronomers, scientists, and mathematicians to base their work on rationalism, or logic.

galileo galilei
Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei (Feb. 15, 1564-Jan. 8, 1642) was an Italian mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. Galileo was born in Pisa, Italy to a noble family, and studied at the University of Pisa (1581-1585).

As a scientist, Galileo conducted many experiments and studied astronomy. Also, Galileo was the first person to use a telescope to study the skies and discovered the rings of Saturn, all four moons of Jupiter, and the different phases of Venus. In addition to this, Galileo also invented the thermometer, water pump, and a scale that could weigh things accurately in water and on land.

Towards the end of his life, Galileo confirmed Copernicus’ heliocentric theory (i.e. the belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun). The Catholic Church, which believed that the stars and planets revolved around the Earth, accused him of heresy before forcing him to take back his statements and admit he was wrong. Instead, Galileo published his research and was then put under permanent house arrest by the Catholic Church and the Inquisition where he remained until his death in 1642.

johannes kepler
Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a German mathematician and astronomer who discovered that the Earth and planets travel about the sun in elliptical orbits and improved on the heliocentric theory first proposed by Copernicus. Like Copernicus before him, Kepler attended a number of different universities to study astronomy and mathematics.

Once he finished his studies, Kepler first set out to defend Copernicus’ heliocentric theory. However, because the science and technology of his time were somewhat basic, Kepler was not able to provide very detailed evidence for his theories.

Later on, Kepler improved on Copernicus’ heliocentric theory by developing the laws of planetary motion to explain the movement of planets around the Sun. These laws essentially stated that planets moved in elliptical orbits around the Sun, which provided a basis for later thinkers and astronomers to make more precise calculations about planets and their orbits.

sir francis bacon
Sir Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, politician, scientist, lawyer, and writer. Although his career as a politician ended in disgrace due to charges of corruption, Bacon nevertheless remained an influential person even after his death because of his work as a philosopher and thinker during the Scientific Revolution.

In his masterpiece NovumOrganum, or “New Instrument,” Francis Bacon described this new method for investigating the world. Bacon was a strong supporter of the scientific method and believed that true knowledge was obtained through experiencing things through the five senses (i.e. sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch) rather than fuzzy reasoning.

Over time, the scientific method has grown to become the basis for all modern science. Although it is intended to be an ongoing process, the scientific method essentially has four basic steps which are listed in order below.

  • Observing & describing a topic or subject
  • Creating a hypothesis – an unproved statement about the subject
  • Testing the hypothesis in an experiment and recording the observations & results
  • Interpreting results to come up with a conclusion
sir isaac newton
Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) was an English scientist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher during the Scientific Revolution. After studying mathematics, physics, and astronomy at Cambridge University, Newton began conducting a variety of scientific experiments.

Drawing inspiration from the works of earlier thinkers such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, Newton published the Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy in 1687. In it, Newton explained his theory of universal gravitation, otherwise known as the law of gravity. This theory stated that all physical objects were affected by the same force (i.e. gravity), which tended to attract objects towards each other. In addition to explaining his law of gravity, Newton’s book also described his three laws of motion, which are explained below.

  • An object will remain motionless (or in motion) unless acted upon by a force.
  • How fast an object moves is proportional (i.e. related) to the force acting on it.
  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In terms of their significance, Newton’s laws of motion showed that objects in Earth and space followed the same set of natural laws and proved once and for all that Copernicus’ heliocentric theory was correct.

margaret cavendish
Margaret Cavendish

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1623 – 15 December 1673), was an English aristocrat, writer, and scientist. Born Margaret Lucas, she later became an attendant of Queen Henrietta Maria and travelled with her into exile in France, living for a time at the court of the young King Louis XIV. Eventually, she became the second wife of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1645, when he was a marquis.

Cavendish was a prolific writer who wrote numerous poems, romances, essays, and plays in her lifetime. Unlike other female writers of her era, she did not published her writings anonymously and instead used her own name. Like many thinkers of her time, Cavendish was interested in many different subjects and wrote on topics that varied from gender, power, manners, the scientific method, and animal protection. To date, she remains the only woman to write on natural philosophy, or natural science, in the 1600s. Far from being overshadowed or ignored by the men around her, Cavendish criticized and engaged in debate with members of the Royal Society of London (one of the oldest scientific communities in existence) as well as men such as René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes.