Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night,

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night,
God said, ‘Let Newton Be!’ and all was light.

The above epitaph to Sir Isaac Newton was written at the time of Newton’s death by the ‘Poet Laureate’ of England, Alexander Pope. The epitaph suggests that the Newtonian synthesis of celestial and terrestrial physics, and its assertion of the existence of a Natural Order governing all relationships in the universe, was the ultimate achievement in a process – extending over 200 years – which had, with Copernicus, first challenged, and then, with Newton’s Principia, replaced the Aristotilian/Ptolemaic Humanist science of the Renaissance. Does Pope’s epitaph honor an ending, or a beginning? Was the process that brought into being the Western World of Renaissance Bazaar, and Western Science from Copernicus to Newton a function of revolution or not-revolution (evolution)? And, finally, were the established ‘systems’, (Greek/Roman methodology for the Renaissance, and Natural Science methodology for the Enlightenment) evident at both ends of that process, more an expression of established fact (truth), or, rather, a societal assumption vested in a methodology that confidently promised answers in the future that would reaffirmed society’s assumed (alleged) certainty in the present?

Note: In your answer, students should make use of the various materials (lecture, readings, films) available in the ‘Course Materials’, and make particular reference to the examples available to you in Renaissance Bazaar, and, in particular, the reading on Galileo from Renaissance Lives and Franklin Le Van Baumer.

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