Describe the scientific breakthroughs of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton, and explain how they led to the concept of the conscious improvement of society conceived by Bacon and Locke in the seventeenth century and the eighteenth century.

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When discussing the great breakthroughs of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, one quality that is highly noteworthy is the degree to which they built off of one another, refining and improving on earlier work. Copernicus advanced the heliocentric model of the universe, breaking with the traditional geocentric model advanced by...

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When discussing the great breakthroughs of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, one quality that is highly noteworthy is the degree to which they built off of one another, refining and improving on earlier work. Copernicus advanced the heliocentric model of the universe, breaking with the traditional geocentric model advanced by Aristotle.

Later, Galileo utilized the telescope to study celestial phenomena, discovering the orbit of the moons around rings, not to mention sunspots and additional stars never previously seen, achievements that further undermined Aristotle's claims and could be used to support the Copernican view.

Kepler, meanwhile, refined the heliocentric model. The Copernican model had established the orbits of the various planets as being perfectly circular; Kepler, on the other hand, established those orbits as being elliptical.

Finally, the last of these four thinkers was Newton, whose work provided an explanation for all these preceding insights and observations:

Newton demonstrated that earthly and celestial motion are subject to laws that could be described by mathematical formulas, the science of mechanics. Going beyond Kepler's three laws of planetary motion, Newton postulated a theory of universal gravitation, the existence of forces of attraction and repulsion operating between objects. (John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present (3rd Ed.), p. 300)

In this, Newton advanced a mechanistic vision of the cosmos that would remain in place until the scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century.

When discussing the impact of these ideas on the later Enlightenment era, what I think is particularly important is that concept of scientific progress that you can chart across these various thinkers. Ultimately, the core unifying idea of the Scientific Revolution was the idea that knowledge could be built and refined over time.

As you move into the Enlightenment, you'll find people adopting that same vision of progress and applying it to alternative realms of study, such as society and politics, for the purpose of improvement them. In this respect, the Enlightenment can be understood as a continuation of the Scientific Revolution.

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