A Space and Astronomy Timeline
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The Second Millennium (1001 - 2000AD)
17th Century (1601 - 1700)
1600s: Seventeenth century scientists transform people's understanding of the world. The scientific revolution of the 17th century powers the modern age in Western Civilization. People realize they have the power to change their environment, rather than accepting it as ordained. Modern empirical science as a means of discovery and a way of thinking inspires progress. Rational inquiry and empirical investigation replace religious doctrine, royal decree and superstition. Discoveries and theories by a host of scientists revolutionize astronomy, physics, chemistry, medicine and mathematics. Realizing knowledge is power, Europe's rulers support scientific undertakings. The Age of Reason begins.
1600s: Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei boosts the scientific revolution by attempting to verify physical laws experimentally and by linking the study of physics and astronomy with mathematics.
1604: Galileo formulates the basic law of falling bodies, verified by careful measurement.
1609: Galileo finishes building the first astronomical telescope. With it he makes the first astronomical observations, seeing craters on the Moon. They support his belief in Copernicus' heliocentric model of the Solar System.
1610: Galileo is first to use a telescope to study stars.
1610: Galileo discovers the moons of Jupiter.
1633: Galileo's outspoken advocacy of Copernicus' theory that the Sun forms the center of the Universe leads to his persecution and imprisonment by the Roman Catholic Church. The inquisition forces Galileo to recant his belief in Copernican theory.
1600s: German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler is an important figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution. The first strong supporter of the Copernicus' heliocentric theory, Kepler is a crucial link between the thoughts of Copernicus and Newton. Published over ten years, his three laws of planetary motion confirm Copernicus' theory.
1604: Kepler writes an influential treatise on the theory of optics.
1609: Kepler proves that the orbit of Mars is an ellipse. This first of his laws of planetary motion appears in Astronomia Nova (New Astronomy) along with the second law of areas governing planetary velocity.
1611: Kepler contributes a treatise on optics as applied to telescope lenses.
1610: Kepler writes physical explanations of the appearance of a nova in 1604, and an enthusiastic acceptance of and elaboration on Galileo's observations with a telescope.
1619: Seeing beauty in the structure of the Universe, and harmony in geometric figures, numbers and music, Kepler, in Harmonices mundi (Harmonies of the World) announces his third law -- a relationship between the orbital periods and the distances of the planets from the Sun. His idea that the Sun regulates the velocity of the planets is a milestone in scientific thought, laying the foundation for Newton's theory of universal gravitation.
1618-21: Kepler's Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae (Introduction to Copernican Astronomy) is one of the most widely read treatises on astronomy in Europe.
1627: Kepler's last great work, the Rudolphine Tables, is a widely used compilation of accurate tables of planetary motion.
1634: Kepler displays his fertile mind as he describes a journey to the Moon and discusses the existence of lunar inhabitants in the posthumous Somnium (Dream), on which he labored until shortly before his death.
1600s: English mathematician and scientist Isaac Newton studies the astronomy of Galileo and is a pioneer in mathematics. The revolution in physical science begun by Copernicus and carried on by Brahe, Kepler and Galileo is brought to fruition by Newton. He discovers that the movement of ordinary objects is predictable. Newton invents differential calculus and formulated the theories of universal gravitation, terrestrial mechanics, and color.
1660: Newton discovers the composition of light.
1664: Newton experiments with gravity and sets forth a theory of universal gravitation.
1667: Newton provides science with a powerful new tool with his discovery of calculus, also discovered independently by Gottfried Leibniz in Germany.
1687: Newton's Principia Mathematica, supposedly inspired by the sight of a falling apple, provides a mathematical demonstration of the new physics, showing that all motion can be described by the same mathematical formulas. The laws of gravity and motion join Earthly and celestial dynamics in one common scheme.
1600s: Famous for his work, Newton is knighted and made president of a new Royal Society dedicated to learning. The new understanding of the regularity of nature challenges superstition and builds a foundation for advances in European scientific endeavor that will last for centuries. The newton is a modern unit of force named after him.
1600s: English philosopher, essayist, courtier, jurist and statesman Francis Bacon reflects the essence of the 17th century at the juncture of modern science and philosophy.
1600s: Bacon encourages scientific progress by popularizing an empirical approach to knowledge. In various writings, he detailes the role of experience and experiment in confirming and refuting hypotheses.
1600s: Bacon promotes the Royal Society of London, one of several scientific and scholarly institutions established in the 17th century. Others include Rome's Accademia dei Lincei, France's Academie des Sciences, and Cardinal Richelieu's famous Academie Francaise for the regulation of the French language.
1605: Bacon's writes The Advancement of Learning.
1620: Bacon's writes the Novum Organum, his theory of scientific knowledge based on observation and experiment -- the inductive method.
1600s: French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes also is the quintessence of 17th century science and philosophy.
1600s: Descartes' philosophy is based on the rationalistic premise "I think, therefore I am." His method of systematic doubt establishes a new basis for certainty and leads to his famous dictum Cogito ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"), a cornerstone of rationalist philosophy.
1637: Descartes becomes the father of analytic geometry when he combines algebra and geometry in a new discipline called analytic, or coordinate, geometry. He formulates the Cartesian system of coordinates.
1600s: The Chinese think they lead the world in science until visiting Jesuits demonstrate European astronomy including a clock that predicts the movements of stars. To test the clock, an eclipse of the Sun is predicted by both Chinese and European astronomers. The Chinese-predicted hour comes and goes with no eclipse. Meanwhile, Western science challenges Chinese superiority when the eclipse occurs at the moment the Jesuits predicted.
1607: The comet to be known later as Halley's Comet appears.
1617: English mathematician Henry Briggs introduces decimal notation, the decimal-based system of logarithms, and long division.
1641: Italian mathematician and physicist Evangelista Torricelli devises the first mercury barometer.
1645: Blaise Pascal invents the adding machine. Three hundred years later, ahigh-level computer programming language will be named after Pascal. Also, a unit of pressure is the pascal.
1653: Pascal formulates Pascal's law used in the operation of hydraulic systems.
1662: English chemist Robert Boyle developes a theory of gases that will become known as Boyle's Law.
1675: The Greenwich Royal Observatory is created by royal warrant. John Flamsteed is appointed the first Astronomer Royal.
1676: The Royal Greenwich Observatory is built by English architect Christopher Wren, who also designed more than fifty London churches including Saint Paul's Cathedral.
1682: The comet to be known later as Halley's Comet appears.
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