It is commonly held that the modern scientific outlook had its beginning with the publication of heliocentric theory by Copernicus in 1543. He denied that earth was the centre of cosmos and thus posed a serious challenge to religion and traditional ideas concerning the nature of the universe and the place of man in the universe. He demonstrated how the planets follow a definite path around the sun and that the earth moves around the sun.
The theory of Copernicus was improved by the German astronomer Kepler (1571-1630) by making observations of the heavens. But the most significant contributions to the theory were made by Gali Galileo (1564-1642) of Italy. He invented a telescope and became the first human being to see mountains and seas on the moon, the spots on the sun and phases of Venus. Through his researches on the laws of motion he established mechanics as a science. In short, through his research Galileo confirmed the belief that the earth was moving through space.
Another person who made valuable contributions to the development of scientific view of the world was Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon attached humanism and scholasticism on the ground that they were highly unscientific. He asserted that man’s scientific outlook had been obstructed by four prejudices viz.
prejudices inherent in human nature which make him see only those facts which support an opinion he wishes to entertain; (ii) the prejudices fostered in the individual by particular environment or circumstances like his birth, childhood, education etc; (iii) prejudices which arise when men consort together in the market place; and (iv) prejudices arising out of tendency of men to become attached with particular theories, schools of thought, philosophies etc.
Bacon argued that if better results are to be obtained new ways had to be devised. He advocated systematic recording of facts derived from experiments which would help man to tentative hypotheses. These hypotheses could be tested by fresh experiments, and certain universal principles and scientific laws be arrived at. The significance of the work of Bacon lies in the fact that he set forth a programme to direct the course of scientific and philosophical inquiry at the time when the traditional modes of thought were crumbling.
The next important person who contributed to scientific view of the world was Rene Descartes (1596-1650). He advocated deductive method. He started with certain self-evident axioms and drew various inferences through logical reasoning.
He tried to extend the mathematical methods of all fields of human knowledge. Like Bacon he also insisted that men in search of truth must get rid of all preconceived notions. He did not favour experiments and insisted that man should try to attain knowledge through reason.
But probably the most important contribution to the advent of scientific outlook was made by Issac Newton (1642-1727). The genius mathematician invented Calculus and conducted experiments in Optics. He devised a new theory regarding nature of light. But probably his greatest contribution was formulation of the ‘law of gravitation’ in his book Principia. Profiting from the researches of Galileo and others, Newton formulated three ‘fundamental laws’ that govern the motion of all bodies.
Leibnitz, the great German scientist of the eighteenth century, paid great tribute to Newton when he asserted that Newton’s contribution to mathematics was greater than that of the whole of history until his lime.”
Finally, during the eighteenth century a number of Scientific Academies were formed which rendered valuable service to the advancement of scientific knowledge and scientific outlook. The first such academy was set up in England in 1662 under the name Royal Society of London.
This was followed by the setting up of French Academy of Sciences in 1666. After some lime similar societies appeared in other capitals of Europe also. These societies provided a forum to the scientists where they met regularly to discuss scientific subjects.
They also provided finances for scientific experiments and published papers of scientific interests. As a result a large number of people busied themselves with experiments or collected scientific information which they imparted to others. This went a long way in promoting scientific outlook.