The Scientists by John Gribbin will bring you through the eras of science and how the masters lived and worked. He starts during the Renaissance, moves into the Enlightenment Age and then into modern science. It is a great book for those who want to understand how science develops by the building on previous knowledge to create greater understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live. Not all of their lives were easy but each were able to accomplish something that contributes to the body of knowledge.
The Renaissance 14th-17th Century: Starting in Italy it was a time that marked a distinct release of old ways of thinking embedded in the Dark Ages to an exploration of human spirit. The use of observation and science began to create a cultural renaissance throughout Europe that raised their position in the world. Literature, art, diplomacy and science made their way into the lives of the elite. It was a process fostered by patronage of the Medici family and the conquering of Constantinople by the Turks that brought a whole host of new Greek scholars and Arab science to Europe.
The Renaissance period was marked by Copernicus and the moving earth, Leonard Digges and the telescope and the Thomas Diggs with his concept of the universe. Other great men include Rene Descartes and coordinates, Newton and the laws of motion, and Edmond Halley’s attempt to measure the atom. It was a time marked by men moving away from the awe of the ancients to a greater understanding of how small we are in the world. The exploration of the globe, math, and science fostered greater analysis.
The Enlightenment Age or Age of Reason 17th-18th Century: Individualism and reason moved against tradition. Practicality became more announced with the advancement of the scientific method. Logic and reason created healthy exchange of information. People like Francis Bacon, John Locke, Voltaire, Isaac Newton and Spinoza brought a whole new way of viewing the world.
It created new discoveries such as machinery, chemicals, and classification of elements, refraction of light, electricity, systematic logic, and a better understanding of the universe. People tried to apply their knowledge to the creation of new things. They experimented and developed new items that led to the Industrial Age and the modern period. Small machines became manufacturing centers and the world changed.
Today’s science is a greater refinement and understanding. We are moving inward and outward in our explorations. We have moved into the body and now understand the intimate nature of DNA and shot telescopes into space. The next discoveries will be about refining previous theories, expanding them, and moving into minute details of existence. This could not have come without the advances of previous ages and the building of one idea onto the next, and the next, and the next. The body of literature has expanded at a tremendous pace in the past 10 years.
Gribbin, J. (2004). The Scientists. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.