How Was the Enlightenment Influenced by the Scientific Revolution?

According to the History Channel, the Scientific Revolution influenced the Enlightenment by providing metaphors of precision for the philosophical speculations that triggered the Enlightenment. Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” and the earlier scientific discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and other natural philosophers helped propel Enlightenment thinkers beyond the vague mysticism of the Middle Ages into the new Age of Reason.

One of the foremost figures of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, wrote that “everything in the universe can be rationally demystified and catalogued.” The work of early scientists laid the basis for such a claim. In 1543, Copernicus shattered geocentricism when he theorized that the planets revolve around the sun. In 1609, Kepler theorized that the planets move in elliptical, not circular, orbits. In 1609, Galileo invented a telescope that he used to make a number of key astronomical discoveries. According to the History Channel website, these discoveries created a widening rift between church doctrine and scientific findings that helped trigger the Enlightenment.

Newton, in his explanations of calculus, optics and gravity, demonstrated the precision inherent in the universe and the measurable forces that held it all together. This encouraged philosophers to strive for the same precision in the realms of thought. As the History Channel website points out, this forced Christians to search for explanations for their beliefs along rational, rather than mystical, lines.