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geocentric universe

A geocentric universe is a planetary system under which the Earth is the center of the galaxy; all the planets and the sun revolve around the Earth. The belief in a geocentric universe prevailed from ancient times until it was challenged by Copernicus and Galileo.


Who was Nicolaus Copernicus?

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer, who published On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543. Copernicus posited a heliocentric universe in which the sun was the center of the solar system and all the planets revolved around it in a circular path.

Copernicus's work, with its emphasis on observation and mathematics, gave birth to the Scientific Revolution. 


How did Johannes Kepler contribute to the study of astronomy?

Using painstaking observations of planetary movement compiled by his mentor Tycho Brahe, Kepler published his three laws of planetary motion in 1605.

Kepler contended that (a) planets revolve around the sun in ellipses; (b) planets closer to the sun move faster; and (c) the time it takes a planet to orbit the sun varies proportionally with its distance from the sun. 


What invention did Galileo use for astronomical observation?

Galileo used the telescope to conduct systematic observations of the heavens.

Besides discovering moons orbiting Jupiter and the rings of Saturn, Galileo was able to confirm for himself that Copernicus's heliocentric model was correct. Galileo publicized his findings, but was forced to recant them in 1633 by the Catholic Church, which was still wedded to the geocentric universe.


Which English scientist popularized the Scientific Method?

Francis Bacon popularized the Scientific Method in the early 1600s. The Scientific Method is based on inductive (rather than deductive) reasoning; a hypothesis is generated based on direct observation of a phenomena, and then the hypothesis is tested with further experiments.

Bacon advocated empiricism, a theory which asserted that knowledge came from sensory experience.


How did René Descartes's approach to science differ from Francis Bacon's?

Unlike Bacon, Descartes emphasized a deductive, rather than inductive, methodology. Descartes used reason and logic to create a theory then determined whether that theory was supported by facts. Descartes advocated rationalism, a theory which appealed to reason as the source of knowledge about the universe.


_____ _____ proposed the law of universal gravitation.

Isaac Newton

Using inductive reasoning, Newton published his Principia in 1687, one of the most important works in the history of science. His mathematically derived theories led to the development of physics and calculus. 


How did Carl Linnaeus systematize the fields botany and zoology?

During the 1750s and 1760s, Linnaeus created the first hierarchical system of plants and animals. Linnaeus also established binomial nomenclature, e.g. homo sapiens.

The first part of the name refers to the genus to which the species belongs (homo) and the second part of the name refers to species within the genus (sapiens).


The Enlightenment marked the first time a _____ world view predominated amongst leading intellectuals.


While Catholics contended that knowledge came from the Church, and Protestants pointed to Scripture as the source of knowledge, the "light" of the Enlightenment came from man's ability to reason.



Deism is a belief that God, having established the universe, does not intervene in its functioning. Instead, the universe functions according to natural laws set in place by God.

Deism gained prominence during the Enlightenment as scientists and philosophes set about to discover God's natural laws.


Who were the philosophes?

The philosophes were Enlightenment thinkers and writers who were dedicated to discovering social problems and positing resolutions by the implementation of natural law. Most philosophes were French, including Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu.


The philosophes emphasized "natural law." What did they mean by the term? 

Natural law refers to laws that govern both human society and the universe as a whole. Natural law is discoverable by reason and determined by nature. The philosophes viewed natural law as superior to man-made (positive) law. 

John Locke was the first philosophe to fully expound natural law. He claimed that merely by his existence, man was endowed with rights which could not be taken or abridged by government. 


Who was John Locke?

An English Enlightenment thinker, Locke theorized that individuals entered into a social contract with their rulers.

In his Two Treatises on Government, Locke contended that although government was supreme, it was required to follow certain natural laws; rights to which all human beings were entitled, simply by virtue of their humanity. Any infringement of these rights justified the overthrow of that government.


Which French writer do historians consider the most influential of the philosophes?

Most historians contend that Voltaire, who lived from 1694-1778, is the most influential of the philosophes.

While most philosophes advanced their arguments through reason, Voltaire relied on ridicule to battle bigotry, intolerance, and the Catholic Church. Voltaire's Candide, his most famous work, managed to satire almost the entirety of European culture in less than two hundred pages.


What Enlightenment thinker edited The Encyclopedia?

Denis Diderot of France edited The Encyclopedia beginning in 1751. Diderot intended The Encyclopedia to be a compendium of all human knowledge.

The finished product was disseminated to Enlightenment thinkers throughout Europe.


How did most Enlightenment thinkers view monarchs?

Most Enlightenment thinkers believed in absolute monarchy and encouraged monarchs to rule as "Enlightened Despots." Enlightened Despots such as Frederick the Great were encouraged to allow religious freedom and freedom of speech, the press, and private property while still maintaining an absolute hold on power.


Which Enlightenment thinker contended that an ideal government separated powers between legislative, executive, and judicial branches?

In his The Spirit of the Laws, published in 1748, the Baron de Montesquieu argued against absolute monarchies, and contended that the rights of individuals could best be protected by a three-branch government.

In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu applied the methods of scientific inquiry to his study of government.


What contribution did Madame Geoffrin make to the French Enlightenment?

Madame Geoffrin ran a Parisian salon (a gathering) which many of the most famous philosophes attended at one time or another. On any given day, Rousseau, Diderot, Benjamin Franklin, or Adam Smith might be in attendance.


Who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman?

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. In it, Wollstonecraft argued that all humans (not just men) were capable of reason, and that the traditional, unequal treatment of women was outmoded and irrational.


How did the French philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau view education?

Rousseau contended that education was inherently individualistic and that children should be allowed to learn through discovery, rather than through rote memorization.

Rousseau argued strongly against the methodological education system prevalent in 18th-century Europe, although it should be noted that he did not apply his theories to his own children's education.


How did Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory of a social contract differ from John Locke's?

While Locke contended that individuals make a social contract with their rulers, in Rousseau's Social Contract, published in 1762, he contended that individuals entered into social contracts with one another.

Thus, the will of the people was the sovereign power in a state, and rulers were subservient to that sovereign power. Any ruler who refused to follow the will of the people could be justifiably removed.


Who were the Physiocrats?

Led by François Quesnay, the Physiocrats were French economic thinkers in the latter half of the 18th century. The Physiocrats challenged mercantilism and contended that the amount of productive work in a society, rather than gold and silver, demonstrated national wealth.


What segment of the economy did the Physiocrats deem the most important?

Since it was the predominate form of labor in the 1700s, Physiocrats emphasized agriculture. Physiocrats believed that each individual would work hardest for his own economic goals and needs, and that trade restrictions and government regulations placed an unnatural barrier on people's goals. 


Who is considered the father of classical economics?

Adam Smith, a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, gave birth to classical economic theory by publishing The Wealth of Nations in 1776.


How did Adam Smith view the government's role in the economy?

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that the government's only role was to defend the state from external enemies, protect the citizens' property, and enforce contracts. In advocating a laissez-faire ("hands-off") economic approach, Smith contended that government interference in the market hindered trade.


In economic theory, what is the Invisible Hand?

First coined by Adam Smith during the Enlightenment, the Invisible Hand refers to the competition between buyers and sellers, each of which are motivated by their own self-interested desires for profit.

The market in which buyers and sellers participated would act as an invisible hand to channel this self-interest into beneficial social ends, such as cheaper and better products.