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“The Revolution in science” is a period of time during which old scientific notions are partially or completely renewed. There are new theoretical assumptions, methods, and material resources, completely incompatible with old ones. The scientific revolution began in Europe during the era of Renaissance and continued through the 18th century. This period was called “The Enlightenment”.

The content of “The Scientific revolution” lies in the fact that scientists make new discoveries in various fields of science. They establish “previously unknown, objectively existing laws, properties and phenomena’s of the material world, which make fundamental changes in the level of knowledge”.

The Empirical Method

The scientific revolution has occurred at the intersection of XVII and XVIII centuries. A new form of making discoveries appeared then. Today it is called “The Empirical Method”. For us now, it is natural, but in the 17th century, it has just begun to spread.

Studies at the university of that time were strictly and hierarchically organized. The studies consisted of four faculties: three highest (theology, law, and medicine) and the fourth - the philosophical, which included seven subjects (seven liberal arts – “septem artes liberales”). They were engaged in basic, preparatory training (“studium generale”). According to the taxonomy of Aristotle, there were the following subjects: Trivium and Quadrivium. “Trivium” means in Latin “Three roads” and “Quadrivium” - “Four roads”. In such a way, appeared the word “Trivial”, which means “belonging to the most basics, primary disciplines, which are taught at the beginning”. Subjects that are taught in modern universities: physics, chemistry, biology, history, geography, philology, had not existed in the universities of that time.

This was due to the fact that knowledge and experience were low-valued. Human senses were considered to be a bad instrument to obtain knowledge, because they were very deceptive. Only information gained by pure logic was acknowledged. Knowledge coming from the observation was considered partial and lacking of universal validity.

Empirical methods include observation, description, measurement, and experiment. Most often, these methods are applied in natural science disciplines: chemistry, biology, astronomy, physics, and geography. These methods are not typical for mathematics. The history of mathematics shows that the empirical methods played an invaluable role in the development of mathematical knowledge and the establishment of independent theoretical mathematics as a discipline. School learning of mathematics, to some extent, repeats its historical path of development. The use of visual aids and teaching aids, usually involves the use of various empirical methods. The simultaneous use of the methods of observation, description, measurement, and experiment often takes place in learning. This helps to avoid the passive contemplation; it helps to activate the students, engage them in purposeful work with the use of demonstration aids, devices, models, etc.

Heliocentric System

The next great breakthrough in science was the idea of a heliocentric system. The heliocentric system of the world is the idea that the Sun is the central celestial body and other planets are turning around it. It originated in antiquity and became widespread only at the end of the Renaissance era. In this system, the Earth revolves around the Sun at a stellar year and around its axis during one sidereal day. The Sun is stationary related to the stars.

Originally, the heliocentric system was proposed at the beginning of III century BC by the Aristarchus of Samos. Unfortunately, little information about the hypothesis of Aristarchus came to us through the writings of Archimedes and Plutarch. Aristarchus came to the heliocentric theory through the findings that the Sun is much greater than the Earth (the calculation of the relative size of the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun). It was natural to assume that a smaller body is orbiting around the larger, but not vice versa.

In the Middle Ages, the heliocentric system of the world has been virtually forgotten. Some fame obtains a representation that Mercury and Venus are orbiting the Sun, which in turn revolves around the Earth. Probably medieval authors have learned about this theory from the works of Latin authors, who were very popular in the early Middle Ages.


Completely, the heliocentric system was revived only in the XVI century, when the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed the theory of the movement of planets around the Sun, based on the Pythagorean principle of the uniform circular motion. As a result of his labors, he published the book The Rotation of the Spheres, in 1543. The reason for returning to the Copernican heliocentric system was the disagreement with the Ptolemaic theory of the equant. It is unclear what impact had made Aristarchus works on Copernicus (in the manuscript of his book, Copernicus mentioned Aristarchus' heliocentric system, but in the final version of the book, this link disappeared).

Copernicus not only explained the reasons for the retrograde motion of the planets, but also calculated the distances of the planets from the Sun and their revolution time. Copernicus also explained the zodiacal inequality in the motion of the planets by the fact that their movement is a combination of movements on the large and small circles. He was similar in his way of explanation with medieval astronomers.

Apparently, Copernicus continued to believe in existence of the spheres bearing the planets. However, he laid the foundation for the further development of the heliocentric theory and the accompanying problems of mechanics and cosmology. Copernicus eliminated the break between “superlunary” and “sublunary” worlds used in Aristotle's philosophy.

The Invention of Electricity

Next great breakthrough in science was the invention of electricity. In 1600 came the term “Electricity” or “amber”. In 1650, Otto von Guericke created electrostatic machine in the form of a sulfuric ball mounted on a metal rod, which allowed observing not only the effect of attraction but also the effect of repulsion. In 1729, Stephen Gray conducted experiments on the transmission of electricity at a distance to discover that not all materials equally transmit electricity. In 1733, Charles Dufay established the existence of two types of electricity: glass and resinous, which was revealed by sliding glass and resin on silk or wool. In 1745, the Dutchman Pieter van Musshenbroek created the first electrical capacitor, called “The Leyden jar”.

The first theory of electricity was created by American B. Franklin, who considered electricity as a non-material fluid. He also introduced the concept of positive and negative charges, invented lightning protection, and with its help proved the electrical nature of lightning. Then, in 1791, Galvani published “A Treatise on the forces of electricity in muscle movement”, which described the presence of the electric current in animal muscles. In 1800, Volta invented the first source of direct current – the galvanic cell, which is a pillar of zinc and silver circles separated by soaked in salted water paper. In 1802, Vasiliy Petrov discovered a voltaic arc.

The Enlightenment

In the late 17th - early 19th centuries, the new intellectual and spiritual movement was born in Europe and North America, which was called “The Enlightenment”. It was a natural continuation of Renaissance humanism and rationalism of the new times. They have laid the foundations of the enlightening philosophy: the refusal of the religious outlook and the appeal to reason as the only criterion of cognition of man and society.

The main desire was to find a way of enlightenment of the human’s mind and natural principles of human life (natural religion, natural law, natural order of economic life and the like). From the point of view of such reasonable and natural beginning, all historically and actually-existing forms and relationships were criticized (positive religion, positive law, and so on). Under the influence of the Enlightenment, there were made the reforms that were to rebuild the whole social life (enlightened absolutism and the French Revolution).

The Era of Enlightenment is one of the key periods in the history of European culture related to development of scientific, philosophical, and social thoughts. At the heart of this intellectual movement lies rationalism and freethinking. Originating in England, this movement had spread to France, Germany, Russia, and outreached to other countries in Europe. Especially influential were the French Enlighteners, which have become the dominant influence. Enlightenment principles formed the basis of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. Intellectual and philosophical movement of this era had a great influence on subsequent changes in ethics and social life in Europe and America, on the struggle for national independence of the American colonies and European countries, on the abolition of slavery, and on the formation of human rights. In addition, it shook the authority of aristocracy and the influence of church on social, intellectual, and cultural life.

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Actually the term “Enlightenment” came from English (The Enlightenment), German (Zeitalter der Aufklärung), and from French (siècle des lumières) and mainly refers to the philosophical trends of the XVIII century. However, it is not the name of a certain school of thought, because the views of philosophers of the Enlightenment are quite distinct and conflicting.

In the XVIII, the French educational literature in the face of Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot and other writers received recognition in Europe. The French enlighteners solved the issues of political and social questions, while the German enlighteners of this era were more engaged in resolution of religious and moral issues.

The Enlightenment was based on the works of such writers as J. Locke (1632-1704) and his followers: V. Bolingbroke (1678-1751), J. Addison (1672-1719), E. Sheftsberi (1671-1713), F. Hutcheson (1694 - 1747). They formulated the basic concepts of the Enlightenment theory: the common good, a natural man, natural law, a natural religion, a social contract, etc. In the doctrine of natural law, set out in two treatises, Locke described the basic human rights: freedom, equality, security of person and property, which are natural, eternal, and inalienable.

People need to enter a social contract voluntarily and create the authority (the state) which will provide the protection of their rights. The notion of the social contract has been the foundation for the theory of society, evolved in the early English Enlightenment figures.

In the 18th century, France became the center of enlightenment. In the first stage, the main figures of the French Enlightenment were Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Voltaire (F.-M. Arouet, 1694-1778). Locke's state of law was further developed in the writings of Montesquieu's doctrine, in his treatise “The Spirit of Laws” (1748). There was drafted the principle of separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial systems.

The Second Stage of Enlightenment

During the second stage of the French Enlightenment, the major roles were played by Diderot (1713-1784) and the “Encyclopedic movement”. “Encyclopedia or Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Crafts”, released in1751-1780, is the first scientific encyclopedia, in which the basic concepts of physics, mathematics, science, economics, politics, engineering and art were brought together. In most cases, the articles were consistent and reflected the latest state of knowledge. d'Alembert (1717-1783), Voltaire, Condillac, Helvetius, d’Holbach, Montesquieu, and Rousseau took active part in creation and editing of the encyclopedia.

The third period put forward the figure of J.-J. Rousseau (1712-1778). He became the most prominent promoter of the Enlightenment, who introduced the rationalist Enlightenment prose, elements of sensitivity, and eloquent pathos. Rousseau proposed a way of political organization of society. In his treatise “The Social Contract or Principles of Political Rights” (1762), he proposed the idea of popular sovereignty. According to his idea, the government gets the power from the hands of people in the form of commission, which the government is obliged to perform in accordance with the people's will. If the government violates this will, people may restrict, modify or take away this power from the government. A violent overthrow of the government may become one of the reasons to return the power back to the people. Rousseau's ideas were further developed in the theory and practice of the ideologues in the French Revolution.

The Period of the Late Enlightenment

The period of the late Enlightenment is associated with the countries of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Germany. The Enlightenment gives a new impetus to German literature and philosophical thought. German Enlightenment philosophers were the spiritual successors to the British and French thinkers, but in their works they transformed and received a deep national character.

The modern European political thought such as liberalism largely takes its base from the Enlightenment. The philosophers of the day chose the strict geometrical order of thinking, reductionism and rationalism as the key elements of the Enlightenment. The liberalism is obliged to the Enlightenment for its philosophical base and critical attitude of intolerance and prejudice. Berlin and Habermas are among the philosophers who hold such views.

Throughout the entire development of the Enlightenment, the center idea was the meaning of the “mind”. It helps people to understand not only the social order, but also themselves. Both can be improved and changed for the better. The scientific knowledge was considered as a highest and most productive form of the mind. Precisely in this era, sea voyages became systematic and scientific.

The task of enlightenment of people pursued by the enlighteners required careful attention to the issues of education and training. Here starts the beginning of a strong didactic basis, manifested not only in scientific treatises but also in literature.


The Enlightenment movement, developed in various countries in different ways. The formation of the Enlightenment in each state was based on its political, social and economic conditions. The movement of the American Enlightenment is closely linked to the struggle of British colonies for independence (1775-1783), which ended with the creation of the United States of America. T. Paine (1737-1809), T. Jefferson (1743-1826), and B. Franklin (1706-1790) engaged in the development of social and political programs that produced a theoretical basis for the construction of an independent state. Their theoretical program formed the basis of the principal laws of the new state: the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1787.

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