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The Scientific Revolution

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Since [the Scientific R]evolution 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 non-material sciences, while transforming the whole diagram of the physical universe and the very texture of human life itself, it looms so large as the real origin both of the modern world and of the modern mentality that our customary periodisation of European history has become an anachronism and an encumbrance.
—Herbert Butterfield[1]

Most often referred to as occurring in the Western world roughly between the years 1500 and 1700 CE, the historical period called The Scientific Revolution witnessed progressively greater numbers of people asking questions about the workings of the natural world; discussing, debating, and discovering answers to those questions; and experimenting and finding new ways to find answers both to those questions and the new questions that arise as a result.[2]

Historian of science John Henry introduces the concept of the scientific revolution as follows:

The Scientific Revolution is the name given by historians of science to the period in European history when, arguably, the conceptual, methodological and institutional foundations of modern science were first established. The precise period in question varies from historian to historian, but the main focus is usually held to be the seventeenth century, with varying periods of scene-setting in the sixteenth and consolidation in the eighteenth. Similarly, the precise nature of the Revolution, its origins, causes, battlegrounds and results vary markedly from author to author. Such flexibility of interpretation clearly indicates that the Scientific Revolution is primarily a historian’s conceptual category. But the fact that the notion of the Scientific Revolution is a term of convenience for historians does not mean that it is merely a figment of their imaginations with no basis in historical reality.[3]

The period of the Scientific Revolution is also commonly referred to as 'the early modern period', or as 'early modern science.'

Early revolutionary events


  1. Herbert Butterfield. (1957) The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800 (London: Bell, 1949), p. viii. ISBN 978-0684836379
  2. Principe L. (2011) The Scientific Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press; 2011. | Google book preview
  3. Henry, John. The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Studies in European History) (Kindle Locations 131-138). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.