Discuss the causes of the Scientific Revolution in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
First, it should be noted that the portrait of a Scientific Revolution which replaced the darkness and superstition of the Middle Ages with a "scientific" world view in the Renaissance is one that most scholars now regard as somewhere between oversimplified and misleading. Many of the innovations attributed to the Renaissance scientific revolution actually had their roots in medieval scholasticism, include early advances in optics and other forms of empirical study.
A key factor in the development of western science was contact with the Islamic and Byzantine worlds, especially in Venice and Moorish Spain. Islamic thinkers in particular were responsible for the development of algebra, which formed the mathematical basis for much of the subsequent scientific developments. The Byzantine and Arabic transmission of classical Greek texts also led to major advances in western astronomy and medicine. Due to these influences, the late medieval thinkers Roger Bacon, Thomas Bradwardine, and William of Ockham all were responsible for the development of what is now known as the "scientific method".
Next, the rise of Protestantism in the Renaissance led to a greater freedom in scientific thought, particularly breaking the Thomistic, neo-Aristotelian orthodoxy. The age of exploration caused Europeans to encounter other cultures and ways of thinking, leading to new knowledge and new ideas.
The Scientific Revolution spread across Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was caused by the emergence of new technology as well as the new way of thinking brought on by the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was a major cause of the Scientific Revolution because it paved the way for people to ask important questions about ideas previously thought to be concrete. During this time, people began to look to science for proof of the way things worked, rather than to rely on the authority of the church.
The emergence of scientific thinking began around the time when Nicolaus Copernicus proposed the heliocentric (sun-centered) model of the universe. Until that time, the geocentric (earth-centered) model was widely accepted and endorsed by the church. From that point on, the Scientific Method emerged, which prompted people to collect and analyze data to make new discoveries regarding the inner workings of the universe.
Another cause of the Scientific Revolution was the advancements in technology. For example, the invention of the telescope greatly improved the ability of scientists to study the universe, and the invention of the microscope allowed for new discoveries in chemistry and medicine.
There are two categories of causes that were most important in bringing about the Scientific Revolution. They are A) changes in thinking and B) changes in technology.
The changes in thinking came with the Renaissance. The Renaissance encouraged people to think about things in a way that was more conducive to science. It encouraged them to look for proof rather than relying on authority to decide what was truth. This is a scientific way of thinking.
Also important were new technologies for measuring and observing scientific phenomena. These things (like telescopes and thermometers and accurate clocks) allowed natural phenomena to be measured precisely. This allowed more experimentation to occur and to yield better results.
This revolution happened because people changed their way of thinking and because they advanced their technological capabilities.