(1543-1800) by Lance Wilson, Cole Bachmeier, and Austen Tyryfter

"I think, therefore I am." -Rene Descartes

During the Middle Ages, Europeans became more educated, and as a result took more interest in how the universe worked. By learning the languages of Greek and Latin, they were able to read the works of Ptolemy, Plato, and Archimedes. Ptolemy was an astronomer who lived during the second century. Using his knowledge, he created a geocentric (earth-centered) model of the universe. In this Ptolemaic System the universe was centered around the Earth, which remained motionless. Other heavenly bodies orbited around the Earth in concentric spheres. In 1543, an astronomer named Nicholas Copernicus proposed his own model of the universe, one which was heliocentric. While Copernicus agreed with Ptolemy that the moon orbited around the Earth, he decided that the sun was the center of the universe, and the Earth orbited around it. Another astronomer, Johannes Kepler, confirmed the heliocentric model and discovered the planets' orbits were elliptical, not circular. Another astronomer and mathematician, Galileo Galilei, further refuted the Ptolemaic model when he proposed that heavenly bodies were composed of matter, like the Earth, instead of being pure orbs of light. While Copernicus' model was widely accepted by scientists by 1640, the Catholic Church believed that it contradicted the Bible, and astronomers of the time were often persecuted by the church. The only question remaining was how it all moved. This was answered by Isaac Newton, who devised the universal law of gravitation, which states that everything in the universe is attracted to everything else because of a force called gravity. Newton's works, as well as those of the political theorist John Locke, influenced a movement called the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was a movement in which scientists of the time believed that they could create a better society through use of the scientific method. It was during this time that a French philosophe (philosopher) who was the Baron of Montesquieu identified three types of government: republics, monarchies, and despotism. He also observed the seperation of powers in three branches of the English government. American philosophes would later use the principle of checks and balances in their own Constitution. Another prominent man in the Enlightenment was Voltaire, who was a believer of deism, in which God had created the universe and then set it to run according to its laws without need for his interference. The first Encyclopedia was created during this time by Denis Diderot, which was a 28 volume collection of knowledge, organized like a dictionary. The Enlightenment also was a cause of a period of musical development. During the 1700's many famous composers created works that are still well-known today. Such composers include Bach and Handel of the Baroque period and Haydn and Mozart of the Classical period. The Enlightenment also led to a form of government known to historians as enlightened absolutism. Under this system, the rulers would lead based on Enlightenment concepts while still retaining their power. Joseph II of the Austrian Empire created many reforms based on Enlightenment principles, including freeing the serfs and abolishing the death penalty, but as a result he alienated the nobles. His successors undid most of his reforms. Other leaders of Europe, including Frederick II the Great of Prussia and Catherine II the Great of Russia considered many reforms, but they were content with the existing structure of their states, and little reform was done in either of those nations.

After the death of Emperor Charles VI of Austria, there was a war over the succession to the throne of Austria. The result was that all territories would remain as they were before, except for the region of Silesia, which woud be taken over by Prussia. The new empress of Austria, Maria Theresa, did not agree with this, and in 1756 she began the Seven Years' War. In Europe the war was fought between the Prussians and the British and the French, Austrians, and Russians. The war was also fought in India and in North America, where it was known as the French and Indian War. The British won the war in India and North America, and a stalemate was reached in Europe which led to territories remaining the same as before. While the Seven Years' War had little affect in Europe, in North America the British wanted a more money to pay for the war costs. Parliament passed several acts between the war's end in 1763 and 1774 that taxed the Americans for almost everything they did. In September 1774, colonists organized at the First Continental Congress and encouraged other colonists to take action against the British. The first battle of the American Revolution occured between the cities of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. The colonist leaders met again in 1776, and on July 4th they declared independence from Great Britain. The French allied with them after an American victory in 1178, and in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed. The Treaty of Paris recognized the independence of the American colonies and also gave the Americans control all former British lands east of the Mississippi River. In 1787, the United States met and created a new Constitution which created a federal republic, a type of democracy that opposed the absolutist states of the time. This form of government would become popular over the following centuries, and is the most common form of government used today.

Newton's Calculus

Key Dates:

1637: Rene Descartes publishes his most famous book, Discourse on Method.
1643: Isaac Newton, a professor at Cambridge University and the discoverer of gravity, was born.
1740: Empress Maria Theresa, who worked to centralize the government in her country, assumes the Austrian throne.
1748: The Spirit of the Laws, a book by Montesquieu that identified three basic forms of government, was published.
1751: Denis Diderot publishes the first of 28 volumes of his Encyclopedia.
1756: The Seven Years' War, which was fought over the control of the region of Silesia, begins.
1762: Catherine II the Great, who was the first powerful ruler of Russia since Peter the Great, takes power.
1763: The Seven Years' War ends, leaving Great Britain as the world's most powerful colonial power.
July 4, 1776: The Second Continent Congress approves the Declaration of Independence, which frees the American colonies from the control of Great Britain.
1783: The Treat of Paris is signed, formally recognizing the American state and ending the war of the American revolution.


  1. Isaac Newton: He developed the law of gravity; this law stated that all bodies attract each other with a force that can be measured. He was also an author, he attended Cambridge University.
  2. Nickolas Copernicus: He made the Heliocentric Theory that said the sun was the center of the universe, and that the earth turns on it axis. He discovered or created this theory around 1543.
  3. Galileo: Nickname “Father of Modern Science” he was the one who discovered the moons of Jupiter and showed that moons had mountains, he also discovered sunspots.
  4. Ptolemy: He invented the Ptolemaic system that stated that the universe is a series of concentric spheres that are on inside of the other.
  5. Margaret Cavendish: Born into a family of aristocrats, she wrote a number of works on the scientific matter. One of these matters was called Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy.
  6. Antoine Lavoisier: He came up with the nature of Combustion, using this he became a founder of modern chemistry. He was later beheaded by a guillotine.
  7. Johann Sebastian Bach: He was a famously know organist and composer of classical music. He had spent almost his entire life performing and living in Germany.
  8. John Locke: He argued that every person who was born was born with a tabula lasa. The tabula lasa meant blank min I his essay of Concerning Human Understanding.
  9. Robert Boyle: He was a Chemist in 1161; he discovered or made chemistry a pure science. The general term for chemistry back in the day was Alchemy.
  10. Johannes Kepler: (1571-1630) Brahe's assistant. He came from a German noble family and was left to study Brahe's work, even after his death. He created the 3 laws of planetary motion. He proved mathmatically what Copernicus theorized.

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Newton's Telescope


This is a map of Europe as it was near the end of the age of Enlightenment.


This video describes how the age of Enlightenment affected science and political thought in the centuries following the Middle Ages. The other describes who and what Issac Newton did.

Astronomy and the Solar System

Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment Terms:

  • Separation of Powers- Separation in which he powers of the government control and limit each other in a system of checks and balances. The executive, legislative, and judicial powers of government are the branches that are kept in balance.
  • Ptolemaic System- The thought that the universe is a series of concentric spheres, or spheres with on inside the other. It says that the Earth is fixed at the center of these spheres.
  • Social Contract- The concept that an entire society agrees to be governed by its general will. This means that individuals who want to follow their self-interests must be forced to follow the general will.
  • General Will- Represents what is best for the entire community. By following the general will, liberty could be achieved by being forced to follow what is best for the mass.
  • Salon- Elegant drawing rooms of the wealthy upper class’s great urban houses. Guests often gathered in these salons to take part in conversations centered on philosophes.
  • Enlightened Absolutism- The system where rulers try to govern its peoples by Enlightenment principles while maintaining their royal powers. It is a give and take style of Absolutism.
  • Federal System- System of government in which power would be shared between the national government and the state governments. The Federal System was divided into the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.
  • Universal Law of Gravitation- The law written by Isaac Newton that explained why the planetary bodies do not go off in straight lines but instead continue I elliptical orbits about the Sun.
  • Rationalism- A system of thought that is based on the belief that reason is the chief source of knowledge. Rene Descartes was known as the father of modern rationalism.
  • Inductive Reasoning- The way of learning in which scientists should proceed from the particular to the general. This way of learning was used instead of relying on the ideas of ancient authorities.

Geocentric Model

Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment Links:

Galileo Galilei This site mainly talks about his role in the Scientific Revolution. It also explains his inventions and his amazing input on the solar system by backing up a sun-based solar system.
Ptolemaic System This site talks about Ptolemy's input to the geocentric system. It states that the Earth is the center of the universe, not the sun. The closest thing to the center besides the Earth would be the Moon.
Isaac Newton This site explains all the Isaac's many careers that he did throughout his life. Newton added to the optics and the gravity field which we still use today. It also explains that a Newton is a unit of measurement.
Frederick the Great This site explains that Frederick the Great was the King of Prussia. It explains his personal life, in which many interesting facts are explained that you normally wouldn't find out about him.
Bach This site explains the musical genius that was Bach. It tells of his range of musical instruments and his unusual style of techique. It explains that he wasn't truly understood as a genius until after his time.
Basic: This site provides basic but essential information on the scientific revolution and enlightenment, it is also very organized and easy to scroll through.
Online Book This site is a little more complex but it has a lot more information than the other sites. It goes into depth on a lot of the people during the Scientific revolution and enlightenment.
Timeline This site provides a timeline which gives you all of the essential dates of important events that have happened in history.
General Overview This site has a general overview of all of the people during this time period. The site is easy to use and has a lot of great detailed information.
More Links This site provides general information, and it provides extra links that lead to you to more specified information.

Great People:

Ptolemy the Astronomer

Nicholas Copernicus

Galileo Galilei

Isaac Newton
Rene Descartes