How did the scientific discoveries in astronomy during the Renaissance affect the modern world?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Scientific discoveries in the field of astronomy during the period of the Renaissance, a period spanning hundreds of years from the 14th through the 17th centuries, have demonstrably affected the modern era by virtue of their ability to withstand scientific scrutiny. Prior to the contributions of Polish-born Nicolaus Copernicus, astronomy was heavily influenced by the doctrines of the Catholic Church and by Humanists who postulated that the Earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus, to be followed by Tycho Brahe and, more importantly, by Johannes Kepler, determined through careful, objective study of the relationships of the Earth to the Sun and to other visible objects in the night sky, that the Sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system, with the planets orbiting the Sun. Each of these three learned men built upon the works of their predecessor, with Copernicus' model of the heliocentric system proven too simplistic with respect to the orbits of the planets and the other two developing more viable models reflecting actual orbits. Add to these three the enormously important work of Italian astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei, whose work on the telescope and whose observations of celestial matter also contributed mightily to contemporary understandings of the universe, and the advances made during the Renaissance in the field of astronomy cannot be overstated. The study of astronomy during the Renaissance period, then, provided the basis for much of what followed in the centuries leading to the modern age. 

While Copernicus' work, which was inspired by and built upon scholarly works of ancient Greece, was not as revolutionary as supposed with regard to Church doctrines, which were actually fairly liberal with regard to the study of astronomy, his, Brahe's and Kepler's contributions have endured to this day. These three individuals are remembered today, in fact, for their work in understanding the solar system and the universe. Modern models of the solar system are adaptations of those developed hundreds of years earlier by Renaissance era scientists and scholars, and their theories are held up today as triumphs of science over theology -- not matter how exaggerated that conflict has been. The late Belgian archeologist Franz Cumont (1868-1947) noted that "after a duration of a thousand years, the power of astrology broke down when, with Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, the progress of astronomy overthrew the false hypothesis upon which the entire structure rested, namely the geocentric nature of the universe." In other words, Renaissance era advances in science and astronomy heavily influenced the modern era.

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