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Lecture 4

NATS 1775 Lecture 4: Unit 4

Natural Science
Course Code
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

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Unit Four: Technology In the Renaissance and Early
Modern Period
I. Science and Technology in the Renaissance
Term Renaissance signals a “rebirth”; in part due to interest in newly recovered
classical texts – humanists
Most important, this is where we see the many changes
In early medieval days, a lot of idea were lost
many texts recovered after fall of Constantinople to Turkish army in 1453; transferred
to Italy and retranslated in Latin from Arabic
War and conflict help recover lost ideas and theories
Era associated with travel, adventure and navigation
increased use of military technology results requires lots of money: increased
taxation, wealth
leads to formation of new nation-states that can afford to engage in such enterprises
(i.e. France emerges as state in 15th century)
Rise of nation states linked to costs associated with producing technologies (i.e.
gunpowder), building and maintaining armies
II. Changing Attitudes towards Natural Philosophy (Science)
During this time, natural philosophers were beginning to move away from the idea of
“knowledge for knowledge sake” and studying the universe for theological purposes
Instead, there was an increased interest in using studies in natural philosophy to gain
individual wealth, status and power
Another change during this time is the transition from natural philosophy to what we
call “modern science” today
This occurs as studying the natural world starts to focus on experimenting with nature
and an increased role in the use of mathematics
Rise of mechanical philosophy is also another development in the road to modern
Change in relationship:
Attitudes: Rise of natural philosophy being modern day science, studying
natural world for knowledges sake
during renaissance things begin to change and modern science appears
What we see as science today can be found during the renaissance
Saw natural philosophy as something to gain power and wealth and status
The rise of experiments in science:
Natural philosophers did not agree with experiments : changed during the
People saw the value of experimentation
Increasing focus on mathematics : way of understanding nature
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See the world around us as a machine for explaining how things work
III. Changing Attitudes towards technology
Like we see with science, engineers and artisans increasingly start to use technical
knowledge as a way of gaining wealth, power and status
We see changes in different professions rising
Rise of engineers
Engineers were hired to show off building stuff for warfare and buildings
During Renaissance, also start to see higher status for role of engineer and therefore
more positive attitudes toward technology
Part of the reason for this was the increased patronage (or sponsorship) of engineers
by the Royal Courts of Europe (see Misa chapter)
Royals courts supported and sponsored many technological enterprises; nowhere
was this more evident than in Italy
Example: Medici family dynasty in Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries sponsored many
technical projects
Did not do so for commercial or industrial reasons; technical projects revolved around
warfare, city-building, entertainment and “showing off” power and wealth
status of engineers in these courts increases with new political and military projects
Court patronage necessary for “Renaissance men” like Leonardo da Vinci and
Galileo Galilei; courts provided vast resources, access to figures in power
Different from standard theological considerations and attaining salvation
Another important development was creation of linear (geometrical) perspective:
three dimensional images onto two dimensional canvas is new method of drawing
and painting images
Leon Alberti (1404-1472) known as “father of perspective”: while he did not invent
linear perspective, did help to perfect the art by providing a structured theory for
artists learning the technique
This new art form will change how technical drawings were done and add dimension
and perspective to art
Prior to this time, images in artwork were often according to the status and wealth of
an individual – rich people were thus “bigger” than those who came from a lower
socio-economic status
Linear perspective thus leads to an entirely new way of drawing both people and
images (See images below for comparison)
IV. The Changing Relationship Between Science and Technology
Up until now, there was very little connection between those who practiced natural
philosophy and artisans and craftspeople
Disconnect between technology and philosophy
There is a slow connection between science and technology
In renaissance we start to see links between the two
This starts to change during Renaissance period
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Why? Part of the reason can by found in the article by Sungook Hong called
“Historiographical Layers in the Relationship between Science and Technology”
Hong provides us with three reasons why the Renaissance age represents a turning
point in this story. His reasons include:
1. Increased use of experiments in scientific practice
Prior to the Renaissance, natural philosophers had tended to shy away from
experimenting with nature
The rise of experiments in science
This in large part was due to the influence of Aristotle
At this point, Aristotle’s influence was beginning to wane and natural philosophers
were starting to see the benefits of engaging in experimentation
What do you require for experiments? Instruments or tools – otherwise known as
If you are a natural philosopher you require something for your experiments
and you will need tools
Need technology in attempts of understand the world because they need tools
to perform experiments
As a result, more scientists starting to value instruments for their research
Examples: telescope or microscope
2. New social spaces
Think of social spaces as places where people from different disciplines could come
together and share their knowledge and ideas with each other
A social space is an area where people get together in
Start to see different spaces being used by different people
This mean the growing connection between different people - engineers and
This increasingly will include both natural philosophers and engineers
Examples of social spaces in the Renaissance: pubs, coffeehouses, salons
3. Hybrid humans
Hybrid human is simply a reference to individuals who had an interest in both natural
philosophy and the technical arts
Express interest in natural philosophy
Renaissance represents a time where the knowledge of different disciplines
become connected
More interest
Prior to this time, hybrid humans few and far between
Good examples: Da Vinci and Galileo (see below)
They used both technology and natural philosophy
A. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Da Vinci’s life is excellent example of the changing attitudes/relationship between
science and technology during this time – see if you can make connections
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