Newtonian physics which was the crowning achievement of seventeenth century science, provided a consistent mathematical theory of the world that remained the solid foundation of scientific thought well into the twentieth century.
" Newton unified the two trends and developed the methodology upon which natural science has been based ever since. ...The stage of the Newtonian universe , on which all physical phenomena took place, was the threedimensional space of classical Euclidean geometry. All changes in the physical world were described in terms of a separate dimension, time,which again was absolute having no connection with the material world and flowing smoothly from the past through the present to the future. Thge elements of the Newtonian world which moved in this absolute space and absolute time were material particles....The Newtonian model of matter was atomistic...all the particles were thought to be made of the same material substance. ..The motion of the particles was caused by the force of gravity which acted instantaneously over a distance....both the particles and the force of gravity created by God... The physical phenomena themselves were not thought to be divine in any sense, and when science made it more and more dificult to believe in such a god, the divine disappeared completly from the scientific worldview, leaving behind the spiritual vacuum that has become characteristic of the mainstream of our culture. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries used Newtonian mechanics with tremendous success... The picture of the world as a perfect machine, which had been introduced by Descartes, was now considered a proved fact and Newton became its symbol." (Capra The Turning Point 67)
and seventeenth centuries In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a radical change in the
worldview' or 'paradigm'. The notion of an organic, living and spiritual universe was replaced by that of the world as a machine. It was the world machine which became the dominant metaphor of the modern era. This development was brought about by revolutionary changes in physics and astronomy, culminating in the achievements of
In seventeenth century science before
inductive method was devised by Francis Bacon The inductive method involved empirical
observation, systematic experimentation,
experimental evidence and inductive reasoning - a theory making process devised by
Francis Bacon. Bacon’s inductive method was effective within the framework of the paradigm based on the notion that the understanding of the physical world depends on understanding its determinate laws of cause and effect
The deductive method was defined by Rene
Descartes The deductive method was a theory-making process defined by
Rene Descartes who had created the conceptual framework for seventeenth century science with his view of nature as a perfect machine - a view which remained a vision during his lifetime. The deductive method involved
deduction from first principles...
deductive reasoning, systematic interpretation and mathematical analysis.
evidence of the inductive method should be combined with the systematic interpretation by deduction from first principles i.e. deductive logic from a given premise.
In unifying the two methods Descartes developed the methodology upon which natural science has been based ever since... 'scientific method'...
Quest for understanding natural law depends on
experiment (empirical observations or facts') and reasoning
Since only simple interactions could be tested, modern science developed as the science of Galileo and
Newtonian science looked upon the physical universe as an exquisitely designed giant mechanism, obeying elegant deterministic laws of motion. Complex sets of events could be understood by this science only when broken down to their elementary interactions.
Whatever was clearly known behaved like a reliable mechanism and the rest was assumed to do likewise (with the possible exception of 'mind' - a phenomenon which Newtonian science could not even begin to comprehend).
First law of motion Newton's first great contribution to science was the 'law of motion' which stated that an object moving in a straight line will continue to do so forever unless acted upon by an external force. Furthermore, the direction and speed of a moving object will be altered according to the direction, mass and speed of the force acting upon it.
same force pulling an apple downward keeps the moon in orbit around the earth and the planets
around the sun.
When he was twenty three years old,
synthesis of their works. Kepler had derived empirical laws of planetary motion by studying
astronomical tables ... Galileo had performed ingenious experiments to discover the laws of falling
apple was pulled toward the earth by the same force that pulled the planets toward the sun. This was
the key to his grand synthesis - his theory of gravitation – which was the formulation of the general
laws of motion governing all objects in the solar system, from stones to planets.
Mathematical Principles of Natural
Newton's model of matter was atomistic
Continued progress in science made it more and more difficult to believe in a God and eventually the divine disappeared completely from the scientific worldview.
Newton's 'mechanics' was crowning achievement of seventeenth century science Newtonian mechanics was the crowning achievement of seventeenth century science. It provided a consistent mathematical theory of the world that remained the solid foundation of scientific thought in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when it was used with tremendous success.
Newton's theories in their historical context Looking at
Consider the philosophical implications of Newtonian physics. His new science which he called 'natural philosophy' vindicated the importance of the human individual in the universe.
But in time even the paradigm of Newtonian mechanics was called into question.
End of nineteenth century At the end of the nineteenth century Newtonian mechanics had lost its role as the fundamental theory of natural phenomena.
that clearly went
beyond the Newtonian model indicated that the universe was far more complex than Descartes and
Nevertheless, the basic ideas underlying Newtonian physics, though sufficient to explain all natural phenomena, were still believed to be correct.
paradigm shift... first three decades
of twentieth century
The first three decades of the twenty-first century changed this situation radically. Two developments in physics, culminating in relativity theory and in quantum theory, shattered all the principal concepts of the worldview
Implications for education