What was it?
o Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement in Europe
o Humanism can be considered as a process by which truth and morality is sought
through human investigation; as such, views on morals can change when new
knowledge and information is discovered.
o Rediscovery of pre-Aristotle thinkers
o swept across Europe from the 14th through 16th centuries, effectively ending
the Middle Ages and leading into the modern era
o Pioneers of Renaissance Humanism were inspired by the discovery and spread of
important classical texts from ancient Greece and Rome which offered a
different vision of life and humanity than what had been common during
previous centuries of Christian domination
o Large sections of Greek and Roman corpus gone like Plato, scholarly eyes were
open when these great thinkers were rediscovered (Only Aristotelianism
o The starting point for the Humanism of the Renaissance was Italy.
o Humanism was very much an outgrowth of increased interest in the philosophy,
literature, and historiography of ancient Greece and Rome, all of which offered a
stark contrast to what had been produced under the direction of the Christian
Church during the Middle Ages.
o determined to study and understand
o was hastened by the continuing conflict between the Turks and Constantinople,
the last bastion of the ancient Roman empire and the center of Greek learning.
In 1453, Constantinople fell to Turkish forces, causing many Greek thinkers to
flee to Italy where their presence served to encourage the further development
of humanistic thinking.
o increased emphasis on the importance of education. People needed to learn
ancient Greek and Latin in order to even begin to understand the ancient
Who were some examples?
o The earliest humanists were the librarians, secretaries, teachers, courtiers, and
privately supported artists of these wealthy businessmen and merchants.
o Johannes Guttenberg – Allowed for books to be made and spread
o Fall of Constantinople – Allowed for Greek thinkers to go to Italy
o Marsilio Ficino – A humanist that translated Platos work
o Cosimo De Medici – Rich dude that set up Platonic Academy
o Johann Fust – funded Guttenbergs move able type; copied Guttenberg’s stuff
o Rise of patronage Printing press
o Johannes Gutenberg (c.1397-1468) - first European to use movable type printing,
in around 1439, and the global inventor of the mechanical printing press
o moveable type printing and paper introduced into Europe from China; paper was
being made in Europe by 1189; Block printing till 15 century
o in contrast, European scribes few and costly; Gutenberg only needs 24 letters
(no “j” or “u”)
o first publication was Gutenberg Bible in 1450
What were main aspects?
o The advent of the printing press led to a greater demand for books and other
o price of books also reduced: for triple the cost, a printer could produce
thousands of copies as compared to a scribe who could produce only one
o more information made available to larger audience
o rapid dissemination of information
o books decrease in price; more people can afford to own them and literacy rises
o tables and indexes allow reader greater control over reading material
o allows for comparing and contrasting similar texts
o this helps establish authority of natural philosophical texts (definitive and
o illustrations more accurate; errors eliminated from traditional copying
o printing and the spread of the Protestant Reformation (i.e. from 1517-20 almost
300000 copies of Martin Luther’s writings were sold)
What technical challenges were involved?
o Can’t use wood so turned to metal
A physician, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De
humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body).
it was clear to Vesalius that Galen had drawn conclusions about human anatomy on the
basis of animal dissections
Showed many of Galen’s descriptions of human anatomical structure to be wrong
Enrolled in University of Padua then became professor
o His innovative lectures and course plans were unique for two reasons.
First, he performed his own dissections rather than reading aloud while a
demonstrator did the dissection
Second, because he used drawings to aid his teaching. These drawings
became an integral part in his teaching, and later in his published works.
What distinguished V’s work from earlier work? o Realized that there were significant contradictions between Galen's text and his
own observations of the human form.
o Performed dissections himself; Direct personal experience over blind adherence
o Did Public demonstrations which got Community into agreement
o Use of human cadavers; From executed criminals; Galen had worked mainly with
animals for dissections
publication of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in 1543 on his deathbed
What was Copernican system & basic principles?
o redraws cosmos by placing sun at center with earth revolving around it; earth
given daily motion, motion about its axis
o earth’s orbit not sun, but an eccentric point from sun “mean sun”
o does account for two problems plaguing astronomers: brightness of Mars and
why Mercury and Venus never appear more than 45 degrees away from Sun
o solves problem of retrograde motion in aesthetically pleasing manner
Lays out 7 basic principles:
o No single center of all heavenly motion
o Earth in motion above sun -> it is a planet like the others
o Planets go around the sun
o Distance to fixed stars immeasurable vast
o Earth rotates daily on its axis
o Earth has more than one motion
Conical motion of axis (seasonal change)
o Retrograde motion to earths movement
How did it compare to Ptolemaic?
o Copernicus studies Ptolemy’s work and compares it to other medieval planetary
charts; sees many discrepancies that can no longer be blamed on poor
differences in prediction of planetary locations make it hard to obtain
accurate information for calendar and navigational purposes
believes Ptolemy did not really adhere to notion of perfect circular
motion by using equants and epicycles
o no real geometric differences between system: same types of observations and
accounts for them
What major problems/objections remained?
o cannot account for phases of Venus and Mercury which were never observed
o The stars did not appear to move, even though Copernicus’s schema called for
the earth to move across the heaven (parallax not seen till the 1838) o Violates Aristotelian traditions: if earth just another planet, what does this say
about status of human species?
o Idea of sun centered universe clashes with some biblical passages
o traditional arguments regarding motion of earth: why don’t we feel earth
moving, why do objects appear to fall straight down; why don’t we fly off earth;
how can objects have more than one kind of motion
What kind of engineering related work did Galileo do?
o created and built own telescope (original inventor of telephone an unknown
o made a telescope with about 3x magnification. He later made others with up to about
o His telescopes were a profitable sideline. He could sell them to merchants who found
them useful both at sea and as items of trade
Work on motion:
o what were major findings
performs experiments to show that bodies do not have fixed velocities;
o How different from Aristotelian views?
He rejected Aristotelians notions on motion
Galileo questions whether Aristotle has done experiments to prove his
unlike Aristotle, does not describe motion in terms of causation; Galileo
refutes idea that objects coming to rest in their natural place
for Galileo, motion does not take place in real world- takes place in ideal
world with no resistance; motion analyzed using mathematical tools
this is unlike Aristotle, who believes there is an essential
difference between body in motion and at rest
o How does G’s work support Copernican theory?
implications: moon’s topography similar to earth’s and it moves
throughout heavens; sun spots show imperfection of heavens; Venus’
phases support heliocentric universe
Galileo observed that Venus exhibited a full set of phases similar to that of the
o What important telescopic discoveries?
4 Satellites of Jupiter; Named them the “Medician stars”
Thousand of star in “Milky way”
Phases of Venus
Craters of moon What role did patronage play in G’s career?
o Found astronomical to bring more patronage then mechanics or mathematics
o Brought him position, status, and authority
o Taught future Grand Duke Cosimo and named his Jupiter findings after them
o He was given court philosopher
Outline relationship between G and Church?
o status rises after he dedicates discovery of Jupiter’s four moons to Cosmos,
leader of the Medici family and names them the Medici stars
o what he now says has wider impact on scientific community
o in 1613 publishes Letters on Sunspots – highly Copernican treatise
o provoked some members of Church but no unanimous opinion on text; some
thought Aristotelian philosophy has little to do with Bible
o others however, feel these ideas might be dangerous to Church
o Galileo asked to present his ideas between religious beliefs and scientific
o afraid Catholic natural philosophers would lose ground to Protestant ones
o answer does not really satisfy church
o attitude towards scriptures angers church bureaucracy
o in 1616 Church announces injunction which bans Copernicanism
o at time, good friends with Cardinal Barberini who later becomes Pope Urban VIII
o given permission to publish book on pros and cons of Copernican and Ptolemaic
systems as long as he does not argue that the former is true
o Galileo writes Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632
o undermines physics and cosmology of Aristotle
o Dialogue characters: Salviati (Galileo/Copernicus), Segredo (impartial observer)
and Simplicio (Aristotle)
o Dialogue is an attempt to demonstrate and criticize Aristotle’s ideas of motion;
i.e. notion of a vacuum
o Pope’s words put in mouth of Simplicio; is angered
o Galileo is accused of violating ban that prohibited defending Copernicanism as
o Galileo faces Roman inquisition in 1632; found guilty and placed under house
arrest; renounces Copernicanism
Tycho Brahe - creates his own planetary system that blends both Ptolemaic and Copernican
builds his own observatory as well as number of large astronomical instruments
What factors facilitated his work? o The church
o Tychonic system was a religiously acceptable alternative that matched available
What was his model of solar system?