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From Greek Science to the Age of Enlightenment
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When did science begin? Egyptians used wheeled chariots, measured mass using balances and built the pyramids. they also moved from a lunar calendar to one with 12 thirty day months (which gave them a good excuse for a 5 day holiday at the end of the year). Was this science? It depends on what you call science. One thing is clear: A missing ingredient in all the advances of those early times was any formulation of physical laws. There was no structure generated that would allow new knowledge to be built from basic principles. This was to be the legacy of the Greeks. It began some time between 800 and 600 BCE.

Among the most well known of the Greek thinkers is Aristotle. He taught that there were two types of motion, natural and violent. Every object had a natural motion, depending on its composition. If the object was made of celestial material (as were the stars and planets), its natural motion was circular, and so it moved around Earth under the influence of the Prime Mover. If made of earth or water it had the motion of heavy objects, which fell towards the center of the universe and so accumulated on Earth. If the object consisted of air or fire its motion was lightness and it moved upward. All things were made of earth, water, air, fire or celestial matter, and so moved accordingly. Violent (or forced) motion occurred when an external agent overcame an object's natural motion. Once the external force was removed the violent motion ceased.  Although this view has obvious and fatal flaws (How, for example, can an arrow continue upward after the force of the bowstring no longer pushes the arrow along?) it remained the prevailing theory of motion for almost two thousand years.

There was little progress on such matters during the middle ages, with the notable exception of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who reconciled the teachings of Aristotle with the doctrine of the Church. This alignment set the stage for the collision between the authority of the Church and the inevitability of scientific discovery. In his work "On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres", published in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus moved Earth from its ordained position at the center of the universe into an orbit about the sun, not unlike that of the other planets. In so doing he ushered in an era dominated by the likes of Galileo, Brahe and Kepler who were to build a new way of doing science

Go to the Copernican Revolution