modern mentality." It was, moreover, construed as a conceptual revolution, a fundamental reordering of our ways of thinking about the natural. In this respect, a story about the Scientific Revolution might be adequately told through an account of radical changes in the fundamental categories of thought. To Butterfield, the mental changes making up the Scientific Revolution were equivalent to "putting on a new pair of spectacles." And to A. Rupert Hall it was nothing less than "an a priori redefinition of the objects of philosophical and scientific inquiry."

This conception of the Scientific Revolution is now encrusted with tradition. Few historical episodes present themselves as more substantial or more self-evidently worthy of study. There is an established place for accounts of the Scientific Revolution in the Western liberal curriculum, and this book is an attempt to fill that space economically and to invite further curiosity about the making of early modern science.1 Nevertheless, like many twentieth-century "traditions," that contained in the notion of the Scientific Revolution is not nearly as old as we might think. The phrase "the Scientific Revolution" was not in common use before Alexandre Koyré gave it wider currency in 1939. And it was until 1954 that two books--written from opposite ends of the historiographic spectrum--used it as a main title: A. Rupert Hall Koyré-influenced The Scientific Revolution2 and a volume of J. D. Bernal Marxist Science in History called The Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. Although many seventeenth-century practitioners expressed their intention to bring about radical intellectual change, they used no such term to refer to what they were doing.

____________________
1
"Early modern," in historians' usage, generally refers to the period in European history from roughly 1550 to 1800. I shall be using the term in a slightly more restrictive sense, to denote the period ending about 1700-1730. Later I will use the terms "modern" and "modernist" to designate some specific reforms of knowledge and practice set on foot in the seventeenth century.
2
In the 1930s the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard referred to "mutations" (or large-scale discontinuities) in the development of the conceptual structure of science, a usage Koyré soon developed: "The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century was without doubt such a mutation. . . .It was a profound intellectual transformation of which modern physics . . . was both the expression and the fruit."

-2-

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The Scientific Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Photo Credits xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • One What Was Known? 15
  • Two How Was It Known? 65
  • Three What Was the Knowledge For? 119
  • Bibliographic Essay 167
  • Index 213
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