The past
The present
The future
History of the Earth
Geological Time Scales
Human evolution
A small African ape living around six Ma was the last animal
whose descendants would include both modern humans and their
closest relatives, the chimpanzees.Very soon after the split, apes in
one branch developed the ability to walk upright. Brain size
increased rapidly, and by 2 Ma, the first animals classified in the
genus Homo had appeared.
 Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are believed to have originated
somewhere around 200,000 years ago or earlier in Africa; the
oldest fossils date back to around 160,000 years ago.
 By 11,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had reached the southern tip
of South America, the last of the uninhabited continents.
Throughout more than 90% of its history, Homo sapiens lived in small
bands as nomadic hunter-gatherers.
Cultural evolution quickly
proper began. Somewhere
between 8500 and 7000
BC, humans in the Fertile
Crescent in Middle East
husbandry of plants and
animals: agriculture.
Development of Science
Agriculture had a major impact; humans began to affect the
environment as never before. Surplus food allowed a priestly or
governing class to arise, followed by increasing division of labor.
This led to Earth’s first civilization at Sumer in the Middle East,
between 4000 and 3000 BC. Additional civilizations quickly arose
in ancient Egypt, at the Indus River valley and in China.
The history of Sumer spans the 5th to 3rd millennia BC, ending
with the downfall of the Third Dynasty of Ur around 2004 BC,
followed by a transition period of Amorite states before the rise of
Babylonia in the 18th century BC.
Gilgamesh was the fifth
king of Uruk, ruling 126
years, according to the
Sumerian king list, placing
his reign ca. 2500 BC.
By about 6000 BC, organized agriculture and large building
construction had appeared in the Nile Valley. Between 5500 and
3100 BC, during Egypt's Predynastic Period, small settlements
flourished along the Nile, whose delta empties into the
Mediterranean Sea. By 3300 BC, just before the first Egyptian
dynasty, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as Upper
Egypt, and Lower Egypt. The historical records of ancient Egypt
begin with Egypt as a unified state, which occurred sometime
around 3150 BC.
Egypt – Old Kingdom
The Old Kingdom is most commonly regarded as spanning the
period of time when Egypt was ruled by the Third Dynasty through
to the Sixth Dynasty (2686 BC – 2134 BC). The Old Kingdom is
perhaps best known, however, for the large number of pyramids,
which were constructed at this time as pharaonic burial
places.Sneferu is believed to have commissioned at least three
pyramids; while his son and successor Khufu erected the Great
Pyramid of Giza, Sneferu had more stone and brick moved than
any other pharaoh. Khufu, his son Khafra, and his grandson
Menkaura, all achieved lasting fame in the construction of their
The beginning of writing
Around the 4th millennium BC writing process first evolved from
economic necessity in the ancient near east. The clay tokens
were used to represent commodities, and perhaps even units of
time spent in labor, and their number and type became more
complex as civilization advanced. A degree of complexity was
reached when over a hundred different kinds of tokens had to be
accounted for, and tokens were wrapped and fired in clay, with
markings to indicate the kind of tokens inside. These markings
soon replaced the tokens themselves, and the clay envelopes
were demonstrably the prototype for clay writing tablets.
… to 2000 BC
The Egyptian calendar, the first known based on 365 days (12
months of 30 days and 5 days of festival) is possibly instituted as
early as 4241 BC
 Babylonians predict eclipses (2900 BC)
 The Great Pyramid of Giza is built as a tomb for Khu-fu (2800
 Units
of length, weight and capacity are legally fixed in
Mesopotamia (2400 BC)
 A form
of soldering to join sheets of gold is used by the
Chaldeans in Ur (2400 BC)
 Positional notation is developed in Mesopotamia; unlike most
other systems, the Sumerian system has a base of 60 instead of
10 (2400 BC)
 Mesopotamian cultures learn to solve quadratic equations; that is,
equations in which the highest power is two (2000 BC)
The World in 2000 BC
Minoan Civilization in Crete
Old Babylonia in Mesopotamia
Harappa Period in India
Middle Kingdom in Egypt
Xia Dynasty in China
Olmec Civilization in Mesoamerica
Assyria was a kingdom centered on the Upper Tigris river, in
Mesopotamia (Iraq)
During the Old Assyrian
period (20th to 15th
centuries BC), Assur
and parts of Asia Minor.
In the Middle Assyrian
period (15th to 10th
influence waned and
regained in a series of
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern
Mesopotamia, with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged
when Hammurabi (fl. ca. 1696 – 1654 BC, short chronology)
created an empire.
Hammurabi is known for the
Hammurabi's Code, one of the
first written codes of law in
recorded history. These laws
were written on a stone tablet
standing over eight feet tall
(2.4 meters) that was found in
The "Hittites" were an ancient Anatolian people who spoke a
language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language
family and established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in northcentral Anatolia ca. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire
reached its height ca. the 14th century BC. After ca. 1180 BC, the
empire disintegrated into several independent city-states.
fought the Battle of
Kadesh (1298 BC)
against Rameses II and
… to 1000 BC
Around 1750 BC, under Hammurabi, star catalogs and planetary
records are compiled.
 Around 1700 BC, the Phoenicians are writing with a 22-letter
 Around
1600 BC, the zodiac is identified by Chaldean
 Around 1050 BC, the Duke of Chou in China builds the first
magnetic compass.
Old Babylonian astronomy
Planetary theory
The first civilisation known to possess a functional theory of the
planets were the Babylonians. The oldest surviving planetary
astronomical text is the Babylonian Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa, a
7th century BC copy of a list of observations of the motions of the
planet Venus that probably dates as early as the second
millennium BC.
The Sumerians, predecessors of the Babylonians who are
considered to be the first civilization and are credited with the
invention of writing, had identified at least Venus by 1500 BC.
Shortly afterwards, the other inner planet Mercury and the outer
planets Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were all identified by Babylonian
1000 BC
In Israel, David is the king
Egypt is a minor power
Alphabet is developed by the Phoenicians
Midas is the king in Phrygia
Dorians invaded Greece
Chou Dynasty in China
Median Empire
The Medes were an ancient Iranian people who lived in the
northwestern portions of present-day Iran.
During the deciding battle of the war between the Medes and
Lydians, a sudden solar eclipse took place. Both armies took this
as a sign from the gods and they made peace. The chief result is
that the date of this aborted battle is the earliest event in human
history that we can confidently say happened on a particular day,
and no other. That day was May 28th, 585 BC.
Persian Empire
Persian Empire (ca. 550–330 BC), was the successor state of the
Median Empire. The empire took its unified form with a central
administration erected by Cyrus the Great.
It was during the reign of Darius I that Persepolis was built (518–
516 BC) and which would serve as capital for several
generations of Achaemenid kings. Darius I attacked the Greek
mainland, which had supported rebellious Greek colonies under
his aegis; but as a result of his defeat at the Battle of Marathon,
he was forced to pull the limits of his empire back to Asia Minor.
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a
civilization of ancient Italy in an area corresponding roughly to
Tuscany. Their origin is unknown. But one hypothesis is that by
1000 BC, refugees of the Phyrigian invasion from Asia Minor had
reached the western shores of Italy and settled there.
According to tradition the Roman Republic was established around
509 BC, when the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the
Proud, was deposed, and a system based on annually elected
magistrates and various representative assemblies was
established. A constitution set a series of checks and balances,
and a separation of powers. The most important magistrates were
the two consuls, who together exercised executive authority as
military command. The consuls had to work with the senate, which
was initially an advisory council of the ranking nobility, or
patricians, but grew in size and power.
In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark
Ages. From about the 9th century BC written records begin to
appear. By 800 BC, Homer had written the Iliad and Odyssey. By
the 6th century BC several cities had emerged as dominant in
Greek affairs: Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. Each of them
had brought the surrounding rural areas and smaller towns under
their control, and Athens and Corinth had become major maritime
and mercantile powers as well.
… to 500 BC
In 763 BC, the Babylonians record a solar eclipse, the oldest
eclipse recorded.
 Around 580 BC, Pythagoras is born on Samos.
 Around 570 BC, Greek philosopher Xenophanes speculates that
because fossil sea shells are found on the tops of the mountains,
the surface of Earth must have risen and fallen in the past, one of
the earliest ideas of earth science.
 Around 500 BC, Pythagoreans are killed and dispersed by a mob
in Croton, and Pythagoras flees to Tarentum.
The Presocratics: Introduction
If we define physics as the study of matter and changes in matter, then
we may search for its origins in a tradition of critical debate established
by the presocratic natural philosophers who lived in early Greek colonies
scattered, for the most part, around the Aegean Sea, before the time of
Socrates. With the exception of the Pythagoreans, presocratic
speculations in natural philosophy were distinct from the mathematical
approach to interpreting nature in the astronomy of the ancient Near
To appreciate the presocratics, we should keep in mind something of (i)
the geography of the Aegean, (ii) their significance for the history of
science, and (iii) their social and religious cultural contexts.
Significance of the Presocratics
What is nature? For the Babylonians, natural phenomena such as the motions of the
heavens were signs of the will of the gods, to be interpreted for the benefit of the king
and empire. For the presocratics, natural phenomena were the result of some
abstract first principle, a divine principle on which everything else depended but which
itself did not depend upon anything else. We have noted their divine first principles:
Thales of Miletos: Water - Monism (related to the mythological Okeanos?)
Anaximandros of Miletos: Apeiron - Monism
Anaximenes of Miletos: Air - Monism
Herakleitos of Ephesos: Fire – Monism (Logos)
Parmenides of Elea, Zenon of Elea, Melissos of Samos: It, The One - Monism,
Plenism, Rationalism, Necessitarianism, Sufficient Reason, Akinesis, Eternity of
the World
Leukippos of Miletos and Demokritos of Abdera: Atoms + Void - Pluralism, Void
Anaxagoras of Klazomenai: All in All - Radical Pluralism, Teleology (Nous)
Empedokles of Akragos: Roots (earth, air, fire water) - Moderate Pluralism,
Tychism (Love and Strife)
Athens and Sparta would soon have to become allies in the face of
the largest external threat ancient Greece would see until the
Roman conquest. After suppressing the Ionian Revolt, a rebellion
of the Greek cities of Ionia, Darius I of Persia, King of Kings of the
Achaemenid Empire, decided to subjugate Greece. His invasion in
490 BC was ended by the Athenian victory at the Battle of
Marathon under Miltiades the Younger.
After this war Athens and Sparta fought for a long time for a
hegemony in Greece. These wars weakened both of them. The
weakened state of the heartland of Greece coincided with the Rise
of Macedon, led by Philip II. Alexander, son and successor of
Philip, continued the war with Persians. Alexander defeated Darius
III of Persia and completely destroyed the Persian Empire,
annexing it to Macedon and earning himself the epithet 'the Great'.
Hellenistic Greece
After the death of Alexander his empire was, after quite some
conflict, divided amongst his generals, resulting in the Ptolemaic
Kingdom (based upon Egypt), the Seleucid Empire (based on the
Levant, Mesopotamia and Persia), the kingdom of Pergamon in
Asia Minor and the Antigonid dynasty based in Macedon.
Roman Republic was established around 509 BC. The Romans
gradually subdued the other peoples on the Italian peninsula,
including the Etruscans. In the second half of the 3rd century BC,
Rome clashed with Carthage in the first of three Punic Wars.
These wars resulted in Rome's first overseas conquests, of Sicily
and Hispania, and the rise of Rome as a significant imperial power.
After defeating the Macedonian and Seleucid Empires in the 2nd
century BC, the Romans became the dominant people of the
Mediterranean Sea.
Syracuse has been inhabited since ancient times and had a
relationship with Mycenaean Greece.
Hiero II seized power in 275 BC. Hiero inaugurated a period of 50
years of peace and prosperity, in which Syracause became one of
the most renowned capitals of Antiquity. Under his rule lived the
most famous Syracusan, the mathematician and natural
philosopher Archimedes. Among his many inventions were various
military engines, later used to resist the Roman siege.
Hiero's successor, the young Hieronymus (ruled from 215 BC),
broke the alliance with the Romans. The Romans besieged the city
in 214 BC. The city held out for three years, but fell in 212 BC. It is
believed to have fallen due to a peace party opening a small door
in the wall to negotiate a peace, but the Romans charged through
the door and took the city, killing Archimedes in the process.
… to 380BC...
… around 500 BC Pythagoreans teach that Earth is a sphere and not in the
shape of a disk...
… around 480 BC Greek philosopher Oenopides is believed to be the first to
calculate the angle that Earth is tipped wrt the plane of its orbit, his value was
24 degrees …
… around 450 BC Pythagorean philosopher Philolaus suggests that there is a
central fire around which the Earth, sun, moon and planets revolve, he also
believes that Earth rotates …
… around 390 BC Plato founds a school in a grove on the outskirts of Athens;
since the groove once belonged to the hero Academos, the school is named
the Academy...
… around 390 BC Greek astronomer Heracleides suggests that Venus and
Mercury may orbit the sun...
… around 380 BC Democritus recognizes that the Milky Way consists of
numerous stars, that the moon is similar to Earth, and that matter is
composed of atoms...
… to 300 BC ...
… around 370 BC Aristotle discovers that free fall is an accelerated form of
motion, but believes that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter bodies...
… in 352 BC Chinese observers report a supernova, the earliest known record
of such a sighting...
… around 330 BC Kiddinu of Babylon works out an early version of the
precession of the equinoxes...
… in 334 BC Aristotle founds the Lyceum in Athens...
… in 318 BC Prince Xuan establishes in the capital of the Qi state in China an
academy of scholars...
… around 300 BC Euclid's Elements summarizes and organizes the
mathematical knowledge developed in Greece; it includes information on
plane and solid geometry and the theory of numbers; it will be the basic
textbook in mathematics for the next 2000 years...
Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato
and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects,
including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric,
politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together with Plato
and Socrates, Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures
in Western philosophy. Aristotle's writings were the first to create a
comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing
morality and aesthetics, logic and science,
politics and metaphysics. Aristotle's views on
the physical sciences profoundly shaped
medieval scholarship, and their influence
extended well into the Renaissance, although
they were ultimately replaced by Newtonian
physics. In the zoological sciences, some of his
observations were confirmed to be accurate
only in the 19th century.
… to 140 BC ...
… around 270 BC Aristarchus of Samos challenges Aristotle's teachings by
asserting that the sun is the center of the solar system and that the planets
revolve around the sun; he estimates the distance of the sun from Earth by
observing the angle between the sun and the moon when it is exactly half
… around 250 BC the Mo Ching, a collection of writings by followers of Mo-tzu,
contains a clear statement of the first law of motion later formulated by
… in 240 BC Chinese astronomers observe Halley's comet in its first known
recorded visit...
… around 240 BC Eratosthenes of Cyrene (Libya) calculates the circumference
of Earth from the difference in latitude between Alexandria and Aswan and
finds a figure 46,000 km close to the present value...
… in 165 BC Chinese astronomers record sunspots, probably the first
accurately dated record...
… around 150 BC Hipparchus of Nicea draws up a listing of fixed stars and
discovers the precession of the equinoxes...
Roman Republic
Meanwhile the slaves sometimes rose in rebellion. The first rebellion
lasted from 135 to 132 BC when slaves in Sicily rebelled. Sicilian
slaves rebelled again in 103 BC but they were crushed in 99 BC.
Finally Spartacus led a rebellion of Italian slaves in 73 BC. However
the rebellion was crushed in 71 BC.
In the first century BC the Roman republic slowly broke down and power
was increasingly in the hands of successful generals. In 60 AD
another powerful general, Gnaius Pompey formed a triumvirate with
two other men Crassus and Julius Caesar. The triumvirate only lasted
about one year but it was renewed in 56 BC. However Crassus died
in 52 BC and Pompey was made sole Consul.
Meanwhile the third member of the triumvirate, Julius Caesar conquered
Gaul. His military victories made him very popular with his men.
However in 49 BC the Senate voted that Caesar should give up
command of the army and return to Rome without his troops. Caesar
refused and instead marched on Rome.
Roman Empire
Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. After his death Gaius Octavius
(Octavian), Julius Caesar's great-nephew, Octavian became
the first Roman emperor (in all but name). In 27 BC he was
granted the title 'Augustus'. The Roman republic was at an end.
Augustus kept the senate but he held the real power. He controlled
the army and the civil service. Augustus managed to restore
order to the Roman empire and when he died in 14 AD it was
peaceful and prosperous.
Diocletian split the empire into two halves, western and eastern.
Constantine united them in 324 but they split again after his
death. Gradually there was less and less co-operation between
the two halves.
… to 70 AD ...
… around 130 BC, Hipparchus uses a total eclipse of the sun and
parallax to determine correctly the distance to and the size of the
… around 100 BC, the Chinese begin to use negative numbers...
… in 56 BC, De rerum natura (On the nature of things) by Lucretius Titus
is written...
… around 10 AD, Liu Hsin is the first person known to have used a
decimal fraction...
… around 50 AD, Pliny the Elder writes Naturalis historia, a work of 37
volumes summarizing all that is known in his time about astronomy,
geography and zoology...
… in 79 AD, Pliny the Younger writes the first detailed account of the
eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii...
… in 79 AD, Pliny the Elder died of asphyxiation while observing an
eruption of Mount Vesuvius...
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions was a period
of human migration that occurred roughly between AD 300 to 700 in
Europe, marking the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle
Ages. These movements were catalyzed by profound changes within
both the Roman Empire and the so-called 'barbarian frontier'.
Migrating peoples during this period included the Huns, Goths,
Vandals, Bulgars, Alans, Suebi, Frisians, and Franks, among other
Germanic and Slavic tribes.
The Almagest
Almagest is the Latin form of the Arabic name of a mathematical and
astronomical treatise proposing the complex motions of the stars and
planetary paths, originally written in Greek by Ptolemy of Alexandria, Egypt,
written in the 2nd century. Its geocentric model was accepted as correct for
more than a thousand years in Islamic and European societies through the
Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The Almagest is the most important
source of information on ancient Greek astronomy. The Almagest has also
been valuable to students of mathematics because it documents the ancient
Greek mathematician Hipparchus's work, which has been lost. Hipparchus
wrote about trigonometry, but because his works have been lost
mathematicians use Ptolemy's book as their source for Hipparchus' works
and ancient Greek trigonometry in general.
… to 600 AD ...
… around 190 AD, Chinese mathematicians use powers of ten to
express numbers...
… around 300 AD, the Maya develop the day-count calendar; this
calendar dates events back to 3000BC...
… in 497 AD, Aryabhata recalculates Greek measurements of the solar
system; although the mostly accepts Ptolemy's scheme of the
universe, he also puts forward the idea that Earth rotates...
… in 529 AD, the Academy and the Lyceum, the schools started by Plato
and Aristotle at Athens, are closed by the emperor Justinian...
Arab Empire
Muslim conquests (632–732)
also referred to as the
Islamic conquests or Arab
peoples began after the
death of the Islamic prophet
Muhammad. He established
a new unified polity in the
Arabian Peninsula which
Umayyad Caliphates saw a
century of rapid expansion of
Muslim power.
Expansion of Islam
End of
End of
End of
… to 1000 AD ...
... around 690, the first uses of a "goose-egg" sign for zero appear
in Cambodia and Sumatra, although the Chinese had longed
used an empty space as a placeholder and later Mesopotamian
numeration also used a sign as a placeholder; it is not clear
when 0 comes to be understood as a number and not just a
... around 830, Al-Khowarizmi's Al-jabr wa'l muqabalah, known in
the West as Algebra, gives methods for solving all equations of
the first and second degree with positive roots...
Islamic Science 610-700
There are several rules in Islam which lead Muslims to use better
astronomical calculations and observations. The first issue is the
Islamic calendar.
The other issue is moon sighting. Islamic months do not begin at the
astronomical new moon, defined as the time when the moon has the
same celestial longitude as the sun and is therefore invisible; instead
they begin when the thin crescent moon is first sighted in the western
evening sky.
In approximately 638 A.D, Caliph Umar introduced a new lunar calendar
based on the Islamic viewpoint. This calendar has twelve lunar
months, the beginnings of which are determined by the sighting of the
crescent moon.
Islamic Science 700-825
This period was most notably the period of assimilation and
syncretization of earlier Hellenistic, Indian and Sassanid astronomy
occurred during the 8th and early 9th centuries.
Historians point out several factors that fostered the growth of Islamic
astronomy. The first was the proximity of the Muslim world to the
world of ancient learning. Much of the ancient Greek, Sanskrit and
Middle Persian texts were translated into Arabic during the 9th
century. This process was enhanced by the tolerance towards
scholars of other religions.
Another impetus came from Islamic religious observances, which
presented a host of problems in mathematical astronomy. In solving
these religious problems the Islamic scholars went far beyond the
Greek mathematical methods.
Islamic Science 825–1025
The period throughout the 9th, 10th and early 11th centuries was one of
vigorous investigation, in which the superiority of the Ptolemaic
system of astronomy was accepted and significant contributions
made to it. Astronomical research was greatly supported by the
Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. Baghdad and Damascus became the
centers of such activity. The caliphs not only supported this work
financially, but endowed the work with formal prestige.
In the history of European culture, this period is considered the early part
of the High Middle Ages. There was a sudden decline of Byzantine
power and rise of Norman domination over much of Europe, along
with the prominent role in Europe of notably influential popes. In what
is now Northern Italy, a growth of population in urban centers gave
rise to early organized capitalism and more sophisticated,
commercialized culture by the late 11th century.
In this century the Turkish Seljuk dynasty comes to power in the Middle
East over the now fragmented Abbasid realm, while the first of the
Crusades were waged towards the close of the century.
Chola-era India and Fatimid-era Egypt, had reached their zenith in
military might and international influence. The Western Chalukya
Empire (the Chola's rival) also rose to power by the end of the
In this century the Turkish Seljuk dynasty comes to power in the Middle
East over the now fragmented Abbasid realm, while the first of the
Crusades were waged towards the close of the century.
In Japan, the Fujiwara clan continued to dominate the affairs of state.
In the Americas, the Toltec and Mixtec civilizations flourished in central
America, along with the Huari Culture of South America and the
Mississippian culture of North America.
In Ukraine, there was the golden age for the principality of Kievan Rus.
In Korea, the Goryeo Kingdom flourished and faced external threats
from the Liao Dynasty (Manchuria).
In Vietnam, the Li Dynasty began, while in Myanmar the Pagan Kingdom
reached its height of political and military power.
End of
12th Century
Europe undergoes the Renaissance of the 12th century. It included
social, political and economic transformations, and an
intellectual revitalization of Western Europe with strong
philosophical and scientific roots. For some historians these
changes paved the way to later achievements such as the
literary and artistic movement of the Italian Renaissance in the
15th century and the scientific developments of the 17th century.
In this century there was a continuous fight between the papacy,
Holy Roman Emperor (mostly today's Germany), Norman Italy
and the Byzantine Empire. All through this time, the Mongols in
the East were uniting their forces for the next century.
Science in 12th Century
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Western Europe
had entered the Middle Ages with great difficulties. Most
classical scientific treatises of classical antiquity, written in
Greek, had became unavailable.
This scenario changed during the renaissance of the 12th century.
The increased contact with the Islamic world in Spain and Sicily,
the Crusades, the Reconquista, as well as increased contact
with Byzantium, allowed Europeans to seek and translate the
works of Hellenic and Islamic philosophers and scientists,
especially the works of Aristotle.
The development of medieval universities allowed them to aid
materially in the translation and propagation of these texts and
started a new infrastructure which was needed for scientific
13th Century
After its conquests in Asia the Mongol Empire stretched from
Eastern Asia to Eastern Europe under Genghis, Ogodai and
Kublai Khans.
In England, John I was forced to sign the “Magna Carta” (1215),
which guaranteed the rights of the nobility and of free-men
generally, against encroachment by the arbitrary power of the
During the crusades, Constantinople fell to the crusaders and they
destroyed all the ancient Greek culture in the last city which
preserved it.
Science in the 13th Century
The most important scholar of the period was Roger Bacon who
upheld the principle of experimental science. He attempted to
write a universal encyclopedia of knowledge and pointed out the
deficiencies of the Julian calendar then being used.
Alfonso X, the King of Castille was most famous for sponsoring the
publication of planetary motions based on Hipparchus and
Ptolemy. The necessary math was so complicated that Alfonso
is supposed to have remarked that if God has asked his advise,
he would have recommended something much simpler.
14th Century
Europe in 1300 was well on the way to rapid expansion. It was
sophistication. Technically, thanks to water power and the
mechanical discoveries that flowed from it, Europe was in the
midst of the Medieval Industrial Revolution. One reason there
seems to be such a break between the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance was that there was in fact a break. The 14th
Century was a time of turmoil, diminished expectations, loss of
confidence in institutions, and feelings of helplessness at forces
beyond human control.
Two great natural disasters struck Europe in the 14th Century. One
was climatic: the Little Ice Age. If the Little Ice Age weakened
Europe's agricultural productivity and made life uncomfortable,
the Bubonic Plague brought life to a virtual standstill.
Science in the 14th Century
The first half of the 14th century saw much important scientific
work being done, largely within the framework of scholastic
commentaries on Aristotle's scientific writings. William of
Ockham introduced the principle of parsimony: natural
philosophers should not postulate unnecessary entities, so that
motion is not a distinct thing but is only the moving object and
an intermediary "sensible species" is not needed to transmit an
image of an object to the eye. Scholars such as Jean Buridan
and Nicole Oresme started to reinterpret elements of Aristotle's
mechanics. In particular, Buridan developed the theory that
impetus was the cause of the motion of projectiles, which was a
first step towards the modern concept of inertia. The Oxford
Calculators began to mathematically analyze the kinematics of
motion, making this analysis without considering the causes of
15th Century
Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, falls to
emerging Ottoman Turks, forcing Western Europeans to find a
new trade route.
Spanish and Portuguese explorations led to first European
sightings of the Americas and the sea passage along Cape of
Good Hope to India, in the last decade of the century. After this
first sightings by Europeans, transportation increased to Europe
from America. Native indigenous cultures that lived within the
continent of the Americas had already developed advanced
civilizations that attest to thousands of years of human
presence; sophisticated engineering, irrigation, agriculture,
religion and government existed before the arrival of the
Spanish and the Portuguese.
The Renaissance
The 14th century saw the beginning of the cultural movement of
the Renaissance. The rediscovery of ancient texts was
accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople, in 1453, when
many Byzantine scholars had to seek refuge in the West,
particularly Italy. Also, the invention of printing was to have great
effect on European society: the facilitated dissemination of the
printed word democratized learning and allowed a faster
propagation of new ideas.
But this initial period is usually seen as one of scientific
backwardness. There were no new developments in physics or
astronomy, and the reverence for classical sources further
enshrined the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic views of the universe.
Philosophy lost much of its rigour as the rules of logic and
deduction were seen as secondary to intuition and emotion.

Blue and Grey