The Origins of Modern Science: 1300-1800

The Origins of Modern Science: 1300-1800

The Origins of Modern Science: 1300-1800

The Origins of Modern Science: 1300-1800

Excerpt

Considering the part played by the sciences in the story of our Western civilisation, it is hardly possible to doubt the importance which the history of science will sooner or later acquire both in its own right and as the bridge which has been so long needed between the Arts and the Sciences.

The following lectures, which were delivered for the History of Science Committee in Cambridge in 1948, were produced in the hope that they would stimulate in the historian a little interest in science, and in the scientist a little interest in history. In this revised edition they appear now with some of their original errors removed, some judgments altered, and some changes which reflect the advance of knowledge in the intervening years.

Nobody, of course, will imagine that the mere "general historian" can pretend to broach the question of the more recent developments in any of the natural sciences; but it is fortunate that in respect of students in both the Arts and the Sciences the supremely important field for the ordinary purposes of education is one more manageable in itself and, indeed, perhaps more in need of the intervention of the historian as such. It is the so-called "scientific revolution", popularly associated with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but reaching back in an unmistakably continuous line to a period much earlier still. Since that revolution overturned the authority in science not only of the middle ages but of the ancient world--since it ended not only in the eclipse of scholastic philosophy but in the destruction of Aristotelian physics--it outshines everything since the rise of Christianity and reduces the Renaissance and Reformation to the rank of mere episodes, mere internal displacements, within the system of medieval Christendom. Since it changed the character of men's habitual mental operations even in the conduct of the non-material . . .

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