The History of European ScienceFebruary 1, 2022
MODERN natural science alone has achieved an all-round systematic and scientific development. It began from that mighty epoch which:
- we Germans call the Reformation
- the French call the Renaissance
- the Italians the Cinquecento
This epoch began in the last half of the 15th century.
It contrasted with:
- the brilliant natural-philosophical intuitions of antiquity and
- the extremely important but sporadic discoveries of the Arabs
The Royalty were supported by the town burghers. They:
- broke the power of the feudal nobility
- established the great monarchies, based on nationality
This led to:
- the modern European nations and
- modern bourgeois society
The burghers and nobles were still fighting each other.
The peasant war in Germany pointed prophetically to future class struggles by creating :
- the stage for the peasant revolt
- the beginnings of the modern proletariat
- They carried the red flag and the demand for common ownership of goods.
Manuscripts were saved from the fall of Byzantium and antique statues were dug out of the ruins of Rome.
These revealed the world of ancient Greece that astonished the West.
- This removed the ghosts of the Middle Ages.
- Italy rose to the flowering of art which seemed like a reflection of classical antiquity and was never attained again.
- Modern literature arose in Italy, France, and Germany.
Shortly afterwards came the classical epochs of English and Spanish literature.
The discovery of America and Asia laid the basis for world trade and the transition from handicraft to manufacture.
- This led to the starting-point for modern large scale industry.
This shattered the dictatorship of the Church.
- It was directly cast off by most of the Germanic people who adopted Protestantism
- The Latins got a cheerful spirit of free thought taken from the Arabs and nourished by the newly-discovered Greek philosophy.
These prepared the way for the materialism of the 18th century.
It was the greatest progressive revolution that mankind has so far experienced.
- It was a time which called for giants and produced giants – giants in power of thought, passion, and character, in universality and learning.
The men who founded the modern rule of the bourgeoisie had anything but bourgeois limitations.
On the contrary, the adventurous character of the time inspired them to a greater or less degree.
Most important men:
- had travelled extensively
- could speak 4-5 languages
- shined many fields.
Leonardo da Vinci was a:
- great painter
- great mathematician
He discovered the most diverse branches of physics.
Albrecht Dürer was a:
He invented a system of fortification embodying many of the ideas that much later were taken up by Montalembert and the modern German science of fortification.
Machiavelli was a:
- the first notable modern military author
Luther cleaned the Augean stable of the Church but also that of the German language.
He created modern German prose and composed the text and melody of that triumphal hymn which became the Marseillaise of the sixteenth century.
The heroes of that time had not yet come under the servitude of the division of labour. , the restricting effects of which, with its production of onesidedness, we so often notice in their successors.
But what is especially characteristic of them is that they almost all pursue their lives and activities in the midst of the contemporary movements, in the practical struggle; they take sides and join in the fight, one by speaking and writing, another with the sword, many with both.
Hence, the fullness and force of character that makes them complete men.
Men of the study are the exception – either persons of second or third rank or cautious philistines who do not want to burn their fingers.
At that time, natural science also developed in the midst of the general revolution and was itself thoroughly revolutionary.
It had to win its right of existence.
Modern philosophy comes from the great Italians. Natural science went side by side with it, providing:
- its martyrs for the stake
- the prisons of the Inquisition.
Protestants outdid Catholics in freely investigating nature.
- Calvin had Servetus burnt at the stake when the latter was on the point of discovering the circulation of the blood
- He kept him roasting alive for 2 hours
- For the Inquisition at least, it sufficed to have Giordano Bruno simply burnt alive.
Natural science declared its independence through revolutionary act as the publication of Copernicus’ work, done timidly and only from his deathbed.
- This threw down the gauntlet to ecclesiastical authority in the affairs of nature
- This is similar to Luther’s burning of the Papal Bull
From then, the development of the sciences proceeded with giant strides. It gained in force in proportion to the square of the distance (in time) from its point of departure.
It was as if the world were to be shown that henceforth the reciprocal law of motion would be as valid for the highest product of organic matter, the human mind, as for inorganic substance.
The main work in the first period of natural science that now opened lay in mastering the material immediately at hand.
In most fields a start had to be made from the very beginning.
- Antiquity gave:
- the Ptolemaic solar system.
- The Arabs gave:
- the decimal notation
- the beginnings of algebra
- the modern numerals
- The Christian Middle Ages gave nothing at all.