The early experimenters : Gilbert, Galileo, and Harvey
Mellon, Don Peter
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This thesis addresses a manifold problem in the history of 17th century science. The problem can be phrased as a compound question: Did the new experimental method of scientific inquiry constitute a genuine revolution in science, and, if so, what were the means by which experimentalism accomplished this revolution? An internal historiographic approach is used to analyze three case studies, meaning that the cases are assumed to be distinct and independent historical entities susceptible of analysis without reference to the larger forces of culture, politics, or religion. An “inside view” is developed by closely examining the primary sources that form the basis of each study. The analysis then attempts to discover structural similarities in the cases that may serve as a generalized historical model. Samples for analysis are taken from the works of William Gilbert (physics and cosmology), Galileo Galilei (astronomy and physics), and William Harvey (anatomy and embryology). The thesis concludes that experimental science represented a wholly new method for extracting knowledge from nature, that it overturned the prevailing theoretical method, and that it became the driving force of what would eventually be known as the Scientific Revolution. Second, the thesis advances the argument that technology played a significant role in joining experimental and theoretical science to form the foundation of the modem scientific method.