Scientific Revolution and Popular Memory

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The scientific revolution has formed the basis of modern day science, and it was instrumental in the abandonment of medieval beliefs on the nature. The era saw the discovery of many facts in astronomy, mathematics, and physics. Many scientists contributed to the revolution, and the topic is in education curriculum to this day. However, the recognition of the contributors to this era is not equally acknowledged. This paper will look at the contribution of Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler and try to explain the factors that make people remember them to this day.

Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei made a significant contribution to the modern understanding and knowledge of celestial mechanics. Celestial mechanics is a branch of mechanics where the motions of celestial bodies, such as planets and stars, are studied. The study is done using applied physics, mechanics and mathematics.

Johannes Kepler

Johannes was a mathematics teacher in Gruz Austria. In addition to this, he served as a district mathematician. His duties included creating calendars that were used to guide people in their various endeavors, as well as note key dates. Johannes used astronomy to reject the superstitions of astrology. Kepler was a Christian, and he believed that an intelligent god could only create a universe that followed a logical pattern. Tyco Bathe took note of his work. He worked with Brahe and was thus able to get more information for his research. He discovered that Mars revolved the Sun in an elliptical path, contrary to the belief that planets revolved in a perfect circular path (Brush, 1996, p. 35). This discovery suggested that planets do not revolve around the Sun at a constant speed. It shows that planets move at a slower speed while far from the sun and faster when close to the Sun. Ten years later he established the third principle of planetary motion. This principle mathematically attempts to calculate the time that planets take to make a complete revolution around the Sun. It also aids in the estimation of planets’ distance from the Sun. Furthermore, Kepler held that tides were caused by the gravitational attraction (Brush, 1996).

Galileo Galilei

Of all of Galileo’s discoveries, the telescope was the most useful. The invention aided in all the theories he proposed that related to celestial mechanics. Using the telescope, he was able to discover Jupiter’s satellites and spots on the Sun. He was also able to refute Aristotle’s claim that the Moon was smooth (Brush, 1996, p. 21). He was able to see that the surface of the Moon was covered by mountains and craters. Perhaps the most controversial of all Galileo’s contributions was when he sided with Copernicus’s heliocentric theory. The theory stated that the Earth revolves around the Sun. This was met with unqualified hostility by the Catholic Church. The church accused him of heresy, as the Bible clearly indicated that the Earth was the centre of the entire Universe. What had led to this was the discovery by Galileo that Venus revolved around the Sun and not the Earth. The controversy resulted in Galileo being tried and found guilty of heresy and consequently condemned to house arrest for life.

The progression of a scientists work also contributes to their popularity. For instance, Galileo is famous for the invention of the telescope. However, Kepler had his own design that was more popular among other scientists than Galileo’s. In fact, the Kepler’s had virtually replaced Galileo’s ten years after the latter’s demise. Examining the circumstances surrounding the two’s work, we see that they are quite different. Kepler maintains a rather low profile, while Galileo lands in trouble with the Catholic Church in a controversy over the Copernican theory. He is even convicted and yet we know that he was right. In 1992, Pope John Paul II publicly admits that the church was wrong in condemning Galileo. This further elevates his status.

As is evident from the above summary, Galileo and Kepler’s contributions complemented each other, rather than being wholly antagonistic. Various philosophers have attempted to chart the oath of scientific progress. Karl Popper bases his theory on refutation. He stated that when a theory is advanced, it faces various challenges and refutations (Bowles & Kaplan, 2012, p. 33). The more of these it overcomes, the more it is considered valid. This is a reflection of the Darwinian theory. A theory comes to its demise in the face of extreme challenges that it cannot prove wrong. It is subsequently replaced, and the cycle begins all over again. Thomas Kuhn argued that there was no direct line of progression in science that could be traced from Aristotle to Newton. He claimed that there was a process that occurred in a series of stages, i.e. how the changes take place. It starts with the pre-paradigm then moves to a paradigm, normal science, paradigm change, and then finally a scientific revolution; each period is essential to bringing about the next one. There are still individual views for each progression and how it is viewed. From the above, we can see various paradigm shifts. The Ptolemaic paradigm ceases with Kepler’s discovery of elliptical paths (Bowles & Kaplan, 2012, p. 45).

Another intriguing aspect emerges from the life of Galileo, such as a scenario of the villain and the innocent. There is the church which does not want to embrace the changes that are inevitable. It chooses to deal with the threat directly and in a rather harsh way. However, the truth is ultimately known, and the villain acknowledges his wrongdoing. This scenario is common in many stories that seek to pass a certain teaching. The fact that the Galileo story has a rather similar style may make it more popular compared to others.

Galileo and Kepler did more or less the same thing. However, Galileo is more widely known than Kepler. It is worth noting that what elicited all the excitement around Galileo was not his original work, but advancement of Nicolas Copernicus. This shows that people will remember things that have some excitement around them.

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