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The scientific revolution

Content objective:

What are we learning? Why are we learning this?

content, procedures, skills

Vocabulary objective

Tier II: High frequency words used across content areas. Key to understanding directions, understanding relationships, and for making inferences.

Tier III: Low frequency, domain specific terms

Building on what we already know

What vocabulary & concepts were learned in earlier grades?
Make connections to prior lessons from this year.
This is where we start building from.

The introduction is adapted from

Why would the birth of science be called a “revolution”?
It was a completely different way of looking at the world.

Before the Scientific Revolution, most people who studied the world took guidance from authorities like ancient Greek writers and Catholic Church officials.

After the Scientific Revolution, people placed more importance on what they observed, and less on what they were told.

They gained knowledge by observing the world, performing experiments, and then coming up with logical explanations.

In Science, proposed theories are not accepted on faith:

Scientists design experiments to test their theories.

If experiments keep showing that the theory makes sense, the theory is kept.

If experiments do not support the theory, we try a new theory.

Before the Scientific Revolution, this method of gaining knowledge was uncommon.

Ancient Greek Thinkers

Many Greek thinkers expressed ideas that, today, we would call scientific.

Aristotle wrote about astronomy, physics, biology, geography, and many other fields.

His greatest contribution was the idea that people should observe the world carefully – and draw logical conclusions about what they see.


Another Greek thinker was Ptolemy (Tahl-uh-mee), an ancient astronomer. He recorded his observations, and offered theories to explain what he saw.

The Greek thinkers were rationalists, people who looked at the world in a rational, or reasonable and logical, way.

Science in the Islamic Golden Age

This section has been adapted from Wikipedia

The Islamic Golden age is an era in Islam, from the 8th century to the 14th century, during which much of the Islamic world embraced and developed science, encouraged economic development, and allowed for a flourishing of arts & culture.

Historians see this era begin during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809 CE) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Here, scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds gathered, and translated much of the world’s classical knowledge into Arabic.

The Islamic Golden Age is generally understood as ending with the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate due to Mongol invasions and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258 CE. But some historians place the end of the era as late as the end of 15th century.

Ibn al-Haytham (aka Alhazen) 965 CE- 1040 CE, Egypt.  Early proponent of the scientific method, during the Golden Age of Arabic science. Did early experimental work in light, vision and optics.

The seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself, as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.

– ‘Aporias (Doubts) Concerning Ptolemy’. Ibn al-Haytham Brief life of an Arab mathematician, Abdelhamid I. Sabra

Ulugh Beg, medieval Samarkand/Uzbekistan, astronomer

Astronomy in the medieval Islamic world (Wikipedia)

The Renaissance

14th-17th century, Europe.

During the Renaissance, Europeans studied the works of Greek rationalists. As a result, they began to view the world in a rational way. They began to think like scientists.

European scholars could study ancient Greek writings because of the work of others.

* Muslim scholars translated Greek writings into Arabic. They studied them for centuries and added their own new ideas.

* Later, Arabic versions were translated into Latin, which was read in Europe. This preserved ancient knowledge and spread interest in science.

Thomas Erpenius, Latin translated from Arabic: fragment of Sūrat Yūsuf (Koran, surah 12) in types copied from Granjon’s by Erpenius (Leyden, 1617)

Thomas Erpenius, Latin translated from Arabic: fragment of Sūrat Yūsuf (Koran, surah 12) in types copied from Granjon’s by Erpenius (Leyden, 1617)


Many Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars played a role in preserving Greek ideas.

* Moses Ben Maimon, known as Maimonides, 1135-1204 CE, Spain and Egypt.

Maimonides united the works of rationalist Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, with Jewish theology. Besides working as a rabbi and a physician, his most influential work is his philosophy book, The Guide for the Perplexed. He re-interprets the Bible and rabbinic literature in line with logic and reason.

Maimonides taught that if science discovers something that contradicts the Bible, then one is obligated to reinterpret the Bible in light of the discovery. For instance, if discoveries in astronomy contradict religious teachings, then we should disregard religious teachings because their science was not as advanced.

* The Christian scholar Thomas Aquinas tried to unite the work of Aristotle with Christian ideas. Other Christian scholars studied Greek ideas in Europe’s universities.

….Developments in Europe also helped bring about the Scientific Revolution, such as the development of humanism during the Renaissance. Humanist artists and writers spent much of their time studying the natural world. This interest in the natural world carried forward into the Scientific Revolution.

The School of Athens is one of the most famous frescoes by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael, painted around 1510 CE, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. (adapted from Wikipedia)


“In the 16th and 17th centuries a new way of gaining knowledge of the natural world developed. This period is now known as the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution did not just fall out of the air; rather it was the result of scientific study made by scientists from numerous places over hundreds of years.”
Roots of the Scientific Revolution, Mr. Kash

When did the Scientific Revolution Begin?

During this era:

* When Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) Published his ‘On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres’ 1543

* Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) published ‘On The Structure of the Human Body’ in 1543

* Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691) is regarded today as the first modern chemist, and a pioneers of the modern experimental scientific method.

* Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) made important astronomical discoveries, and developed the laws of motion for falling bodies, using quantitative experiments which he analyzed mathematically.

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

Understandings about the Nature of Science (Crosscutting Concepts):  Science knowledge has a history that includes the refinement of, and changes to, theories, ideas, and beliefs over time.

Science Is a Human Endeavor:  Scientific knowledge is a result of human endeavor, imagination, and creativity. Individuals and teams from many nations and cultures have contributed to science and to advances in engineering.

Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework

World History I Learning Standards: Scientific Revolution and The Enlightenment in Europe
WHI.33 Summarize how the Scientific Revolution and the scientific method led to new theories of the universe and describe the accomplishments of leading figures of the Scientific Revolution, including Bacon, Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton.

Next Generation Science Standards
Connections to Nature of Science: Science Models, Laws, Mechanisms, and Theories Explain Natural Phenomena.
A scientific theory is a substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment, and the science community validates each theory before it is accepted. If new evidence is discovered that the theory does not accommodate, then the theory is generally modified in light of this new evidence. (HS-ESS1-2),(HS-ESS1-6)

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