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Time Period of Enlightenment and Revolution


Geocentric theory

the earth-centered view of the universe


Greek philosopher who developed the geocentric theory

Scientific Revolution

a major change in European thought, starting in the mid-1500s, in which the study of the natural world began to be characterized by careful observation by careful observation are used to test hypotheses

Heliocentric theory

the sun-centered view of the universe

Nicolas Copernicus

Polish cleric and astronomer who developed the heliocentric theory during the early 1500s

"On The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies"

The book of Nicolas Copernicus detailing his views of the positions of the stars and planets, not developed until 1543 for fear of disturbing the church

Tycho Brahe

Astronomer who carefully recorded the movements of the planets for years after Copernicus' death, and created a large amount of unprocessed data

Johannes Kepler

Astronomer who continued Brahe's works, interpreting Brahe's data with the conclusion that certain mathematical laws govern planetary motion, proving Copernicus' basic ideas to be true

Galileo Galilei

An Italian scientist who built theories about astronomy; published a small book called "Starry Messenger"; angered the Catholic church with his work "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems"

"Starry Messenger"

The small text written by Galileo Galilei, in which he announces that Jupiter had four moons, and that the sun has dark spots. Also, he noted that Earth's moon had a rough, uneven surface. These ideas disproved Aristotle's theory of pure substance planets, and it also supported Copernicus' theories

The scientific method

A new approach to science, which is a logical procedure for gathering and testing ideas. Begins with a problem or question arising from an observation; then, scientists form a hypothesis; hypothesis is tested, and either proved or disproved; finally, scientists analyze and interpret the data to reach a conclusion that either supports or rejects hypothesis

Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes

Two thinkers of the 1600s who helped to develop the scientific method

Francis Bacon

An English statesman and writer who believed that by better understanding the world, scientists could generate knowledge that would aid in daily life; attacked medieval scholars for relying too heavily on Aristotle and other ancient philosophers; created empiricism: urging scientists to test and develop their own conclusions

Rene Descartes

Developed analytical geometry, linking algebra and geometry; also believed that scientists should reject old assumptions, and instead test for themselves; used mathematics and logic to gain knowledge

Sir Isaac Newton

Studied mathematics and physics at Cambridge University; thought that all physical objects were affected equally by the same forces; in 1687, wrote "The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"

Zacharias Janssen

A Dutch maker of eyeglasses, developed the first telescope

Anton van Leeuwenhoek

In the 1670s, used a microscope to observe bacteria


Ancient Greek physician whose knowledge was drawn upon during Medieval times; assumed that the human anatomy was similar to other animals

Andreas Vesalius

Proved Galen's ideas wrong; dissected human corpses and published his observations in a book called "On the Structure of the Human Body", which had detailed drawings of human organs, bones, and muscle

Edward Jenner

In the late 1700s, this British physician introduced a small vaccine to prevent smallpox

Robert Boyle

Wrote "The Sceptical Chemist", in which he challenged Aristotle's idea that the world was made of earth, air, fire, and water; Boyle's law explains how volume, temperature, and the pressure of gas all affect each other

Thomas Hobbes

Wrote 'Leviathan"; developed the idea of the social contract; argued that the ruler needed total power as an absolute monarch


Book written by Thomas Hobbes, explaining that all humans were basically selfish and wicked; he write that without governments to keep order, there would be "war...of every man against every man," and that life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Ideas developed after witnessing the horrors of the English civil war

The idea of social contract

Developed by Thomas Hobbes, not to be confused with the book "The Social Contract" by Jean Jacques Rousseau, this idea is that in order to escape their bleak lives, humans must hand over their rights to a strong ruler, in exchange for law and order

John Locke

Had a positive view of human nature; people could govern themselves and could learn from past experiences, and had the natural ability to look after their own affairs and welfare of society; criticized the idea of the absolute monarch in favor of self-government; believed that humans had the rights to life, liberty, and property


A French philosopher, one belonging to a group of social thinkers during the Enlightenment


an 18th-century European movement in which thinkers attempt to apply the principles of reason and the scientific method to all aspects of society

5 Core Concepts of the Philosophes

Reason, nature, happiness, progress, and liberty


Published more than 70 political essays, philosophy, and drama; used satire against the clergy, the aristocracy, and the government; never ceased fighting for tolerance, reason, freedom of speech, and freedom of religious belief

Baron de Montesquieu

Devoted himself to the study of political liberty; believed that Britain was the best self-governed and most politically balanced country of its day; wrote "On The Spirit of Laws"

"On the Spirit of Laws"

Book written by Baron de Montesquieu, in which he proposed the separation of powers to keep any individual group from gaining total control of the government; later called the idea of checks and balances

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Committed to individual freedom; writer of essays as a brilliant, strange, and controversial figure; argued that citizens corrupt people's natural goodness; thought that the only good government was a direct democracy; published these views in his book "The Social Contract"

Cesare Bonesana Beccaria

Italian philosophe who studied the justice system; thought that laws existed to preserve natural order; criticized torturing witnesses and suspects; irregular proceedings in trials; and cruel punishments; believed that capital punishment should be abolished

Mary Wollstonecraft

Published an essay titled "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" in 1792, disagreeing with Rousseau's idea that a man's education should come before a woman's

Legacy of the Enlightenment

Belief in Progress, A More Secular Outlook, and Importance of the Individual


A social gathering of intellectuals and artists, like those held in the homes of wealthy women in Paris and other European cities during the Enlightenment


A book written by Denis Diderot, which aided greatly in the spread of Enlightenment ideas all over Europe; consisted of a large set of books which held numerous essays by philosophes and Enlightenment thinkers; angered French government and Catholic church


A grand, ornate design, common in the European art of the 1600s and early 1700s


A simple, elegant artistic style that borrowed ideas from ancient Greece and Rome, common during the late 1700s

Classical composers of the Enlightenment

Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven

Enlightened despots

Absolute monarchs who had been influenced by the Enlightenment ideas, often through contact with a philosophe, and who made reforms and laws based upon these Enlightenment ideas

Frederick the Great

King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, committed himself to reforming Prussia by granting religious freedoms, reducing censorship, and improving education ; referred to himself as a "servant of the state"

Joseph II

Most radical reformer; king of Austria, ruled from 1780 to 1790, and introduced legal reforms and the freedom of press; also supported freedom of worship

Catherine the Great

Ruled Russia from 1762 to 1796; exchanged letters with Voltaire, and read the works of many philosophes; created a failed commission for reform, and then put into place a series of limited political reforms

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