17th Century Scientists: History, Inventions & More

17th Century Scientists: Science developed in the 17th century. The antique Greeks could be said to be scientists. They guessed by using their logic they could work out why the natural world behaves as it does. However, the Greeks never confirmed their theories by carrying out factual experiments. As a result, many of their concepts about the natural world were wrong. sadly, the ancient Greek theorists were held in very high esteem and for centuries roughly anyone questioned their theories. This took off to change in the late 16th century and the early 17th century.

People began to organize experiments to see if assumptions about the world were true. In England, a man named Francis Bacon (1561-1626) disclosed that people should not accept that theory was true just because a Greek philosopher said it was. He contended that careful observation and experiment was the key to detecting out how the natural world works. Regularly this new method of understanding the world took over. By the late 17th century the new scientific access had pride everywhere in Europe.

By then scientists were carrying out accurate observations and experiments to find out how the world works. There was a change in point of view during the 17th century. Formerly people saw nature almost like a living thing. Now they began to see it as a machine (Isaac Newton called God the ‘Divine Watchmaker’). Moreover, Francis Bacon considers that science (or natural philosophy as it was called) could incredibly improve people’s lives.

By the late 17th century there was a new mood of confidence and science was making great progress. Things began to change in the 16th century. In the 2nd century AD, an astronomer called Ptolemy described that the Earth is the center of the universe. The sun and the other planets orbit the Earth. In the 16th century, a Polish evangelist called Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) thought this is untrue. The Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun. Nonetheless, his theory was not published until just before his death.

17th Century Scientists
17th Century Scientists

Another great astronomer of the 16th century was Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). He made perfect pieces of information on the positions of stars. However, Brahe did not favor the Copernican theory. Instead, he concluded that the Sun rotates around the Earth and the other planets rotated around the Sun. In 1572 Brahe saw a new star (a nova). The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the heavens were unchanging. Change and disintegration, he said, only appeared on Earth. Undoubtedly, Aristotle was wrong. He was pursued by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).

In the 16th century, people conclude that the planets move in circles. Kepler showed they orbit the Sun in ellipses and they move faster as they reach the Sun. Kepler published two laws of planetary motion in 1609. He published a third in 1619. Moreover, in 1604 Kepler published a book on Optics.


Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is recognized as the father of modern science and made major improvements to the fields of physics, astronomy, mathematics, cosmology, and philosophy. Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa in 1564, the first of six children of Vincenzo Galilei, a musician, and professor. In 1581 he entered the University of Pisa at age 16 to study medicine but was soon deflected by mathematics.

He left without completing his degree (Galileo was a college dropout!). In 1583 he made his first important discovery, representing the rules that govern the motion of pendulums. Galileo came up with an improved telescope that let him observe and specify the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, the states of Venus, sunspots, and the rough lunar surface.

17th Century Scientists - Galileo
17th Century Scientists – Galileo

His ability for self-promotion earned him powerful friends among Italy’s running elite and enemies among the Catholic Church’s leaders. Galileo’s assistance of a heliocentric universe brought him before religious authorities in 1616 and again in 1633 when he was obliged to back down and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.

  • In 1589 Galileo became a professor in mathematics at Pisa University. At that time the ancient Greek theorist Aristotle was owned in very high esteem and many people admitted his concepts without question. However, Galileo did not.
  • Aristotle said that if two objects, a heavy one and light one both drop from a height the large one will reach the ground first. According to legend, Galileo assessed the theory by dropping two different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Both hit the ground at the same time. However many people now believe this outstanding experiment is a myth. it never actually took place. In any case, other scholars had already amounted to the conclusion that Aristotle was wrong.
  • Then in 1509, Galileo picked up a new invention from Holland. A man named Hans Lippershey had come up with the telescope. Galileo made his own telescope and soon advanced it. Using a telescope Galileo was able to see different things invisible to the naked eye. Firstly he could see many stars not visible without a telescope. Secondly, the ancient Greeks considered that the Moon was smooth. Looking through a telescope Galileo could see the Moon’s surface is actually rough, with mountains and craters.
  • He also unearthed 4 small ‘moons’ orbiting the planet Jupiter. At the time these were impressive discoveries. Until then nobody knew that any of the other planets, apart from Earth, had ‘moons’.
  • In 1610 Galileo wrote a book called Sidereus Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger. At that time astronomers were questioning sunspots. A German named Christoph Scheiner to hold that they were satellites of the sun.
  • In 1613 Galileo contended that sunspots are actually on the surface of the sun. Copernicus also contended that the earth and the other planets orbit the sun. At first, the church did not have a complication with his theory. However, point of view regularly hardened and in 1616 the Copernican theory was disclosed heretical. There is a portion in the Old Testament where a prophet named Joshua called for the sun to stand still in the sky.
  • Some intellectuals said this meant the sun must move. Of course, Joshua knew nothing about Astronomy. To him, the sun showed to move across the sky. Naturally, he would direct the sun to stand still and to him, it would have appeared to stand still.
  • The church’s displeasure to the Copernican theory was based on a misconception of the Bible. However, Galileo was a resolute supporter of the Copernican theory.
  • In 1632 he published a book called Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. As a result, he was summoned to Rome to be examined by the Inquisition.
  • He arrived in January 1633. Galileo was intimidated with torture unless he renounced the Copernican theory. Not surprisingly he agreed to do so. Galileo expired on 8 January 1642 aged 77.

Hans Lippershey

Hans Lippershey was a Dutch eyeglass inventor who many historiographers believe was the founder of the first telescope and is also sometimes referred with the invention of the compound microscope. Lippershey was born in Wesel, Germany, and established in the Netherlands, opening a spectaculars shop in Middleburg.

One story describes the development of the telescope involves Lippershey detecting two children playing with lenses in his shop. The children inspected that when they looked through two lenses, a weather vane on a nearby church showed to be larger and clearer.

According to the story, Lippershey tried it himself and brought about the amazing possibilities. He then placed a tube between the lenses to make a telescope. Even though he was paid very well for his invention, a patent was not granted because it was felt that the simple device could not be kept a secret.

There still is some anxiety, however, about who actually was the first to invent the telescope, as there have been stories of a magical telescopic device dating as early as the sixteenth century.

The Advance of Medicine

At this time doctors made huge progress in finding out how the human body works. In 1628 William Harvey disclosed his discovery of how blood circulates around the body. The Roman writer Galen said that blood crosses from one side of the heart to the other through the septum. However, by 1555 the great surgeon Vesalius had shown the conclusion that no such holes remain and that blood can not pass from one side of the heart to the other in that way.

In 1559 a man named Realdo Colombo exhibited that blood actually travels from one side of the heart to the other through the lungs. Eventually, William Harvey got that the heart is a pump. Each time it contracts it pumps out blood. Harvey then evaluated how much blood was being pumped each time. The Roman writer Galen believed that the body regularly makes new blood and uses up the old (rather like an engine using up petrol). However, Harvey understood this is not true. Rather, the blood circulates around the body.

In the 17th century, medicine was still hampered by mistaken ideas about the human body. Most doctors still felt that there were four fluids or ‘humor’ in the body, blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Illness appear when you had too much of one humor. Nevertheless, during the 17th century, a more scientific approach to medicine developed and some doctors began to question conventional ideas.

In the 17th century, medicine was helped by the microscope (invented at the end of the 16th century). In 1658 Jan Swammerdam first inspected red blood corpuscles. In 1661 Marcello Malpighi discovered capillaries. Then in 1665 Robert Hooke was the first person to represent cells in his book Micrographia.

Isaac Newton

  • Isaac Newton is Britain’s biggest scientist. Britain’s oldest scientific society began in 1645 when a group of theorists and mathematicians began keeping meetings to discuss science or natural philosophy as it was called. Charles II was sympathetic in science and in 1662 he awarded them a charter and they became the Royal Society.
  • In 1667 Isaac Newton was appointed a fellow of Trinity College. The same year he was appointed a member of the Royal Society.
  • In February 1672 a paper he composed about light and colors was read to the society. In 1669 Newton became Lucasian professor of mathematics.
  • In the meantime, in 1668, he invented a reversing telescope. Newton disclosed his masterpiece Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687. It set out his theory of gravity and his laws of motion.
  • Newton understood that there is a universal force (gravity) that brings all objects in the universe to each other. His theory of gravity revealed the movements of the planets.
  • In 1704 Newton also published a book on light called Optics. Newton revealed that white light is made up of several colors. Meanwhile, in 1704 he published another great work about light.
  • Isaac Newton died on 20 March 1727.
17th Century Scientists - Issac Newton
17th Century Scientists – Issac Newton

Many other scientists worked in the late 17th century. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) unearthed Titan, the moon of Saturn. In 1656 he made the first pendulum clock, which made an accurate analysis of time possible. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) made his own microscopes and through them, he made many pieces of information.

Meanwhile, in 1661 Robert Boyle (1627-1691) published the Skeptical Chemist, which laid the foundations of modern chemistry. Boyle denied the Greek thinker Aristotle’s idea that the world is made up of four elements, water, earth, fire, and air. Boyle is also famous for Boyle’s law (The volume of a gas kept at constant temperature is inversely proportional to its pressure).

FAQ’s About 17th Century Scientists

Who Was The 17Th Century Scientist?

Notable Scientists Of This Era Include The Astronomer Galileo Galilei, Philosopher René Descartes, Inventor And Mathematician Blaise Pascal, And Isaac Newton. Here Is A Brief Historical List Of The Greatest Technology, Science, And Invention Hits Of The 17Th Century.

What Was Discovered In The 17Th Century?

In The 17Th Century, We See The Invention Of The Telescope And Microscope, As Well As Far Superior Clocks, And The Liquid Compass. The Use Of Mathematics And Geometry By Science Followed The Use Of Them By Artists And Architects.

What Was Science Called In The 18Th Century?

The Chemical Revolution Was A Period In The 18Th Century Marked By Significant Advancements In The Theory And Practice Of Chemistry. Despite The Maturity Of Most Of The Sciences During The Scientific Revolution, By The Mid-18Th Century Chemistry Had Yet To Outline A Systematic Framework Or Theoretical Doctrine.

Is The 17Th Century The 1600S?

1600S May Refer To: The Period From 1601 To 1700, Synonymous With The 17Th Century. The Period From 1600 To 1609, Known As The 1600S Decade.