Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century

By Michael Windelspecht | Go to book overview

resents a more important advance in that it was one of the first scientific studies to actively employ the use of the scientific method and experimentation to examine a force of nature. Gilbert’s reliance on logic and experiments, rather than the philosophical basis of ancient Greek science, strongly influenced the science of Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Over the next several decades, scientists in a wide variety of disciplines explored the nature of the physical world. By the end of the century (ca. 1687), their work enabled the English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton to develop the theory of universal gravitation and the laws of motion. To accomplish this, Newton not only synthesized the work of his predecessors, but also co-developed a new form of mathematics (the calculus) to address the needs of his research. Newton himself stated: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” In the history of science few centuries have produced such a wealth of scientific intellect as the 17th century. Together, within a period of less than 100 years, their accomplishments would change dramatically how scientists perceived the world around them.

The science of the ancient Greeks was based almost exclusively on observation of the natural world. In comparison, the scientists of the 17th century relied on experimentation and mathematical proofs to confirm their developing views of the natural world. As the scientists of this time advanced their studies, there developed a need for more advanced scientific instruments that would address specific research needs. To explore the heavens astronomers developed the telescope and, in doing so, first viewed the complexity of the heavens. With one generation of scientists examining the very large celestial objects, another used microscopes to discover the vast world of the microscopic organisms. As the century progressed more elaborate data-collecting devices were needed. The result was instruments such as the pendulum clock for keeping time and the barometer to measure air pressure. The link between science and technological advancement was thus established, a partnership that continues over four centuries later in modern science. However, unlike the 17th century, where advances in technology primarily benefited a select few of society, the technology of the 21st century has had a more significant impact, with few populations or areas of the globe not influenced by some technological or scientific achievement. Yet, the 17th century represents the time when the pace of technological advances in response to the needs of science was accelerated tremendously. The structure of our modern scientific culture is a direct descendant of these times.

-xviii-

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Groundbreaking Scientific Experiments, Inventions, and Discoveries of the 17th Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Experiments, Inventions and Discoveries 1
  • A 3
  • B 15
  • C 34
  • E 54
  • F 64
  • G 70
  • H 81
  • J 109
  • K 115
  • L 121
  • M 148
  • N 173
  • O 177
  • P 187
  • S 201
  • T 224
  • V 241
  • Appendix 245
  • Glossary of Technical Terms 247
  • Selected Bibliography 257
  • Subject Index 261
  • Name Index 267
  • About the Author 271
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