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Democritus Biography

bios democritus http%3A%2F%2F biography Democritus

Name: Democritus
Birth Date: 460 B.C.
Death Date: 370 B.C.
Place of Birth: Abdera, Greece
Nationality: Greek
Gender: Male
Occupations: natural philosopher

The Greek natural philosopher Democritus (460-370 BC) promulgated the atomic theory, which
asserted that the universe is composed of two elements: the atoms and the void in which they
exist and move.

Democritus was born in Abdera, the leading Greek city on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.
Although the ancient accounts of Democritus's career differ widely, they all agree that he lived to
a ripe old age, 90 being the lowest figure. During that long career Democritus wrote many books.
Little Cosmology, a veritable encyclopedia, has perished because its contents displeased those,
such as the philosopher Plato, whose decisions determined which works should be preserved. Of
all of Democritus's many-sided interests, his espousal ofthe atomic theory accounts for his
renown and also for the disappearance of the treatises which won him that renown.

Atomic Theory

Democritus did not originate the atomic theory; he learned it from its founder, Leucippus, the
author of the Big Cosmology. While this work too has vanished, some conception of its contents
may be obtained from Aristotle. He opposed the atomic theory, but in doing so he summarized
its principal doctrines. Thus he attributed to Leucippus the ideas that the atoms are "infinite in
number and imperceptible because of the minuteness of their size. They move about in empty
space (for there is empty space) and by joining together they produce perceptible objects, which
are destroyed when the atoms separate." The point at which Leucippus's elaboration ofthe atomic
theory stopped and Democritus's contributions to it began can no longer be identified. In
antiquity the theory's major features were sometimes ascribed to Leucippus and Democritus
jointly and sometimes to Democritus alone.
Perhaps according to both of them and certainly according to Democritus, the atom was the
irreducibly minimal quantity of matter. The concept of the infinite divisibility of matter was
flatly contradicted bythe atomic theory, since within the interior of the atom there could be no
physical parts or unoccupied space. Every atom was exactly like every other atom as a piece of
corporeal stuff. But the atoms differed in shape, and since their contours showed an infinite
variety and could be oriented in any direction and arranged in any order, the atoms could enter
into countless combinations. In their solid interior there was no motion, while they themselves
could move about in empty space. Thus, forthe atomic theory, the physical universe had two
basic ingredients: impenetrable atoms and penetrable space. For Democritus, space was infinite
in extent, and the atoms were infinite in number.

By their very nature the atoms were endowed with a motion that was eternal and not initiated by
any outside force. Since the atoms were not created at any time in the past and would never
disintegrate at any time in the future, the total quantity of matter inthe universe remained
constant: this fundamental principle of Democritus's atomic theory implies the conservation of
matter, the sum total of which inthe universe neither increases nor diminishes. Though
Democritus's conception of the atom has been modified in several essential respects in modern
times, his atomic theory remains the foundation of modern science.

For Democritus, "time was uncreated." His atomic universe was temporally everlasting and
spatially boundless, without beginning and without end in either space or time. Just as no special
act of creation brought Democritus's universe into being, so the operations of his cosmos did not
serve any particular purpose. Consequently, Democritus's atomic theory was irreconcilable with
the teleological view, which regarded the world as having been planned to fulfill some
inscrutable destiny. As the founder ofthe atomic theory declared in his only surviving statement,
"Nothing occurs at random, but everything happens for a reason and by necessity."

Moral Teachings

Just as Democritus's cosmogony invoked no creator-god, so his moral teachings appealed to no

supernatural judge of human conduct. He attributed the popular belief in Zeus and other deities
to primitive man's incomprehension of meteorological and astronomical phenomena. To support
his theory about the origin of worship of the various divinities, Democritus assailed the
widespread notion that rewards for righteous actions and punishments for wrongdoing were
administered in an afterlife. In the long history of Greek speculation Democritus was the first
thinker to deny that every human being has an individual soul which survives the death of the

Democritus sought to diminish pain during life, of which "the goal is cheerfulness." Cheerfulness
is identical not with pleasure, as he was misinterpreted by some people, but "with a calm and
steady mind, undisturbed by any fear or superstition or other irrational feeling." Yet Democritus
did not advocate a quiet life of repose. His was not the outlook of the retired citizen, drowsing in
his rocking chair on the front porch and idly watching the world go by. Democritus taught a
naturalistic morality, avoiding ascetic renunciation as well as excessive indulgence, and urging
energetic participation in beneficial activities. In particular, "Democritus recommends mastering
the art of politics as most important, and undertaking its tasks, from which significant and
magnificent benefits are obtained for the people." Perhaps from his governmental experience in
Abdera, Democritus learned that "good conduct seems to be procured better by the use of
encouraging and convincing words than by statute and coercion. For he who is restrained by law
from wrongdoing is likely to commit crime covertly. On the other hand, he who is attracted to
uprightness by persuasion is unlikely to transgress either secretly or openly."

Probing the Infinitesimal

Archimedes, the most brilliant mathematician of antiquity, gave Democritus credit for the
discovery that the volume of a cone is one-third that of a cylinder having the same base and
altitude. Archimedes added, however, that this theorem was enunciated by Democritus "without
proof." In Democritus's time Greek geometry had not yet reached the stage at which it demanded
rigorous proofs of its theorems. Democritus stated: "If a cone is cut by a plane parallel to its
base, shall we regard the surfaces forming the sections as equal or unequal? If unequal, they
make the cone uneven, having numerous indentations and protrusions, like a flight of stairs. But
if the surfaces are equal, the sections will be equal and the cone comes to look like a cylinder,
consisting of equal circles." Democritus's conception of the cylinder as being made up of an
indefinite number of minutely thin circular layers shows him beginning to probe the momentous
question of the infinitesimal, the starting point of a most valuable branch of modern

Comte de Buffon
The French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), wrote the
major general work on natural history of the 18th century and made the Royal Garden in
Paris a center for scientific research.

On Sept. 7, 1707, Georges Louis Leclerc was born in Montbard, the son of a magistrate in the
local sovereign court of justice ( parlement ). While information regarding Buffon's early career
is scant, it is probable that he graduated from the Jesuit college in Dijon and later received a
diploma from the Faculty of Law located in Dijon. He was preparing for his father's calling, a
career in the law being the expected activity of one of Buffon's particular noble ...

Darwin, Charles Robert

Darwin, Charles Robert, 1809–82, English naturalist, b. Shrewsbury; grandson of Erasmus
Darwin and of Josiah Wedgwood. He firmly established the theory of organic evolution known
as Darwinism. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and for the ministry at Cambridge but lost
interest in both professions during the training. His interest in natural history led to his friendship
with the botanist J. S. Henslow; through him came the opportunity to make a five-year cruise
(1831–36) as official naturalist aboard the Beagle. This started Darwin on a career of
accumulating and assimilating data that resulted in the formulation of his concept of evolution
and his explication of natural and sexual selection. He spent the remainder of his life carefully
and methodically working over the information from his copious notes and from every other
available source.

Independently, the naturalist A. R. Wallace had worked out a concept of evolution similar to
Darwin's. Wallace sent a paper outlining his theory to Darwin in 1858, and its striking
coincidences with Darwin's work led Darwin's friends to move to assure that the more cautious
Darwin, who had been slow to publish, would receive credit for the independence and priority of
his ideas. The next year Darwin set forth the structure of his theory and massive support for it in
the superbly organized On the Origin of Species, supplemented and elaborated in his many later
books, notably The Descent of Man (1871). He also formulated a theory of the origin of coral

Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus), fl. 2d cent. A.D., celebrated Greco-Egyptian mathematician,

astronomer, and geographer. He made his observations in Alexandria and was the last great
astronomer of ancient times. Although he discovered the irregularity in the moon's motion,
known as evection, and made original observations regarding the motions of the planets, his
place in the history of science is that of collator and expounder. He systematized and recorded
the data and doctrines that were known to Alexandrian men of science. His works on astronomy
and geography were the standard textbooks until the teachings of Copernicus came to be
accepted. The mathematical and astronomical systems developed by the Greeks are contained in
his 13-volume work, Almagest. With credit to Hipparchus as his chief authority, he presented in
his famous book problems and explanations dealing with the known heavenly bodies and their
relations to the earth. The Ptolemaic system thus evolved represented the earth (a globe in form)
as stationary in the center of the universe, with sun, moon, and stars revolving about it in circular
orbits and at a uniform rate. From the center outward the elements were earth, water, air, fire,
and ether. Beyond lay zones, or heavens, each an immense sphere. The planets were assumed to
revolve in small circles, called epicycles, whose centers revolved around the earth in the vast
circles, or deferents, of the spheres. (To account for the precession of the equinoxes and other
phenomena, later astronomers found it necessary to add more epicycles and to make both
epicycles and deferents eccentric.) The Almagest also contains other astronomical information,
including a catalog of more than 1020 stars (giving their latitudes, longitudes, and magnitudes),
as well as mathematical information, including a table of chords. Ptolemy's system of geography
is founded upon the works of Marinus of Tyre; many errors stem from his underestimation of the
earth's circumference. However, his system was in use until the 16th cent. His mathematical
theories, most valuable in the field of trigonometry, are preserved in his Analemma and
Planisphaerium. His writings, circulated in the original Greek and in Arabic and Latin
translations, include also the Tetrabiblos, a study of astrology.

Nicolas Copernicus

Copernicus is said to be the founder of modern astronomy. He was born in Poland,1 and
eventually was sent off to Cracow University, there to study mathematics and optics; at
Bologna, canon law. Returning from his studies in Italy, Copernicus, through the influence
of his uncle, was appointed as a canon in the cathedral of Frauenburg where he spent a
sheltered and academic life for the rest of his days. Because of his clerical position,
Copernicus moved in the highest circles of power; but a student he remained. For
relaxation Copernicus painted and translated Greek poetry into Latin. His interest in
astronomy gradually grew to be one in which he had a primary interest. His investigations
were carried on quietly and alone, without help or consultation. He made his celestial
observations from a turret situated on the protective wall around the cathedral,
observations were made "bare eyeball," so to speak, as a hundred more years were to pass
before the invention of the telescope. In 1530, Copernicus completed and gave to the world
his great work De Revolutionibus, which asserted that the earth rotated on its axis once
daily and traveled around the sun once yearly: a fantastic concept for the times. Up to the
time of Copernicus the thinkers of the western world believed in the Ptolemiac theory that
the universe was a closed space bounded by a spherical envelope beyond which there was
nothing. Claudius Ptolemy, an Egyptian living in Alexandria, at about 150 A.D.,
gathered and organized the thoughts of the earlier thinkers. (It is to be noted that one of
the ancient Greek astronomers, Aristarchus, did have ideas similar to those more fully
developed by Copernicus but they were rejected in favour of the geocentric or earth-
centered scheme as was espoused by Aristotle.) Ptolemy's findings were that the earth was
a fixed, inert, immovable mass, located at the center of the universe, and all celestial bodies,
including the sun and the fixed stars, revolved around it. It was a theory that appealed to
human nature. It fit with the casual observations that a person might want to make in the
field; and second, it fed man's ego.

Copernicus was in no hurry to publish his theory, though parts of his work were circulated
among a few of the astronomers that were giving the matter some thought; indeed,
Copernicus' work might not have ever reached the printing press if it had not been for a
young man who sought out the master in 1539. George Rheticus was a 25 year old
German mathematics professor who was attracted to the 66 year old cleric, having read
one of his papers. Intending to spend a few weeks with Copernicus, Rheticus ended up
staying as a house guest for two years, so fascinated was he with Copernicus and his
theories. Now, up to this time, Copernicus was reluctant to publish, -- not so much that he
was concerned with what the church might say about his novel theory (De Revolutionibus
was placed on the Index in 1616 and only removed in 1835), but rather because he was a
perfectionist and he never thought, even after working on it for thirty years, that his
complete work was ready, -- there were, as far as Copernicus was concerned, observations
to be checked and rechecked.

(Interestingly, Copernicus' original manuscript, lost to the world for 300 years, was located
in Prague in the middle of the 19th century; it shows Copernicus' pen was, it would appear,
continually in motion with revision after revision; all in Latin as was the vogue for
scholarly writings in those days.)

Copernicus died in 1543 and was never to know what a stir his work had caused. It went
against the philosophical and religious beliefs that had been held during the medieval
times. Man, it was believed (and still believed by some) was made by God in His image,
man was the next thing to God, and, as such, superior, especially in his best part, his soul,
to all creatures, indeed this part was not even part of the natural world (a philosophy
which has proved disastrous to the earth's environment as any casual observer of the 20th
century might confirm by simply looking about). Copernicus' theories might well lead men
to think that they are simply part of nature and not superior to it and that ran counter to
the theories of the politically powerful churchmen of the time.

Two other Italian scientists of the time, Galileo and Bruno, embraced the Copernican
theory unreservedly and as a result suffered much personal injury at the hands of the
powerful church inquisitors. Giordano Bruno had the audacity to even go beyond
Copernicus, and, dared to suggest, that space was boundless and that the sun was and its
planets were but one of any number of similar systems: Why! -- there even might be other
inhabited worlds with rational beings equal or possibly superior to ourselves. For such
blasphemy, Bruno was tried before the Inquisition, condemned and burned at the stake in
1600. Galileo was brought forward in 1633, and, there, in front of his "betters," he was,
under the threat of torture and death, forced to his knees to renounce all belief in
Copernican theories, and was thereafter sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of
his days.

The most important aspect of Copernicus' work is that it forever changed the place of man
in the cosmos; no longer could man legitimately think his significance greater than his
fellow creatures; with Copernicus' work, man could now take his place among that which
exists all about him, and not of necessity take that premier position which had been
assigned immodestly to him by the theologians.

"Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the
doctrine of Copernicus. The world had scarcely become known as round and complete in itself when it
was asked to waive the tremendous privilege of being the center of the universe. Never, perhaps, was
a greater demand made on mankind - for by this admission so many things vanished in mist and
smoke! What became of our Eden, our world of innocence, piety and poetry; the testimony of the
senses; the conviction of a poetic - religious faith? No wonder his contemporaries did not wish to let
all this go and offered every possible resistance to a doctrine which in its converts authorized and
demanded a freedom of view and greatness of thought so far unknown, indeed not even dreamed
of." [Goethe.]


Galileo (Galilei), astronomer, mathematician, and physicist was another of those great anti-
Aristotelian scientists of the age, such as Johann Kepler (1571-1630) who also published
laws of planetary motion. These great men came to their great discoveries because of their
scientific view of Nature. They were a new breed of philosophers, natural philosophers, or
scientists as we call them today. They did not dwell long on the useless question: Why do
things happen? They asked: "How do things happen?
Galileo was an Italian. At the age of 19 he discovered the principle of isochronism that each
oscillation of a pendulum takes the same time despite changes in amplitude. Soon
thereafter he became known for his ideas on hydrostatic balance; and, further, his treatise
on the center of gravity of falling bodies. He found experimentally that bodies do not fall
with velocities proportional to their weights, a conclusion received with hostility because it
contradicted the accepted teaching of Aristotle. Galileo discovered that the path of a
projectile is a parabola, and he is credited with anticipating Isaac Newton's laws of motion.
In 1609 Galileo constructed the first astronomical telescope, which he used to discover the
four largest satellites of Jupiter and the stellar composition of the Milky Way, and in 1632
he published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work that upheld the
Copernican system rather than the Ptolematic system and marked a turning point in
scientific and philosophical thought. Brought (1633) before the Inquisition in Rome, he was
made to renounce all his beliefs and writings supporting the Copernican theory.


South east of an area that was to become the English industrial heartland, in a little village
called Woolsthorpe, Issaac Newton made his entry into the world. He was prematurely
born, and, was so small at his birth, his mother used to say that "he might then have been
put into a quart mug."1 His widowed mother - Newton's father had died several months
before his birth - was to re-marry; and - there apparently being no room for a two year old
in the new Newton household - this small misplaced child passed into the care of his

Newton had a bad start with his schooling; he has been described as having been one of the
poorest performing students in the grammar school in which his grandmother had placed
him.2 The story is that the boy suffered from a blow delivered by a schoolyard bully; or
was it that he was struck on the head by an apple: whatever it was, an event occurred
whereby "the hard shell which imprisoned his genius was cracked wide open." The boy
was to make a dramatic turn around, early in his scholastic career. He was to ask questions
which many of us sooner or later have come to ask. What is light and how is it transmitted?
What keeps the moon in the orbit of the earth, and the planets in the orbit of the sun? Why
does the apple fall to the ground? Newton came, in time, to answer these questions and was
to give positive proof of these answers, proofs and answers which serve us yet today.3

Somehow, interested people managed in 1661 to see that Newton entered Trinity College,
Cambridge. By 1665 he was writing of "fluxions" and the law of gravitation. By 1667,
Newton was made a fellow at Trinity, and soon thereafter, a professor of mathematics, a
post which he held to at least 1696.

Newton, the scientist from Cambridge, was in direct competition with Hooke, the scientist
from Oxford. It was likely this competition which drove Newton to write his Principia, it is
said, within a period of eighteen months; a task which physically and mentally drained its
author. It was to be Newton's great gift to mankind.

"Mathematically it [Principia] can only be compared to Euclid's Elements; in its physical insight and its
effect on ideas only to Darwin's Origin of Species. It immediately became the bible of the new science

It is said that Edmund Halley (yes, the man who had a comet named after him) came from Oxford in
1684 (the other camp) with the view of consulting with Newton on a rather esoteric question
concerning the centripetal forces of the universe. Newton had already solved the problem a couple of
years back, -- and Halley, was much impressed. One might speculate that Halley put a bee in Newton's
ear that his rival was hot on the trail and, of course, the first to publish is the winner. It was thought
that the Royal Society would pay the printing and distribution costs of Newton's work, but at the last
minute it reneged. (Hooke had taken over the secretary's position in 1677.) Halley, apparently a man
of greater financial resources, came to Newton's aid; he supervised the printing of the work and paid
the bills.

Newton's work had the effect of putting Cartesian philosophy on its ear. Those who
subscribe to this philosophy accept certain truths, a priori (truths not derived from
experience). I do not want to get into a philosophical discussion, at this place, about
deductive reasoning, sufficient to say that accepting notions which have no basis in reality
and then to proceed to build on those is not the approach used by those who hit upon the
great scientific discoveries of the 17th century, or any scientific discovery, ever.

Newton specifically stated in his work that he was advancing beyond the philosophical to
the mathematical. His statements were not based on assumptions or suppositions, but
rather on mathematical proof set out in detail. Descartes had thought that all matter in
space is contained within a thin fluid, which gave rise to vortexes, which in turn held all the
celestial bodies in place. The theories advanced by Descartes are every bit as interesting as
that advanced by Newton: the problem is that Descartes had absolutely no proof to back up
his theories - Newton did.

Rene Descartes was a dualist: and the principal point I wish to make, is: Newton was not. It
is important, even to the most rudimentary understanding of Newtonian theory, to
understand that any law of nature is universal in its application. Newton had made a
rather fundamental break with the past in stating that there is no difference between
earthly and celestial phenomena. "Like effects in nature are produced by like causes." The
ancient belief, the dualist belief, is that there are worlds apart from the earth and these be
perfect worlds, whereas the earth is not.
In person, Newton was medium in
height and in his later years was
inclined to stoutness. He was extremely
absent-minded particularly when in
the midst of trying to fathom a
theoretical problem; it is said that he
would sometimes sit on the side of his
bed half-dressed for hours at a time.
He frequently would not know
whether he had dined, or no. "He was
a lifelong bachelor, he never wore
glasses, and his teeth were sound and
serviceable to the day of his death."5

As for his temper: He was "invidious,

ambitious, exceedingly avid of praise,
and very irritable when contradicted."
It is further written of Newton that he
had a suspicious and quarrelsome
temper.6 An example of Newton's
quarrelsome temper can be
exemplified by the running argument he had with the supporters of his German
counterpart, Leibniz.

Newton lived in London in a comfortable setting and had "a beautiful niece to keep house
for him."7 He pursued his studies without any subsidies; and he bought all of his own

Newton died on March 20th, 1727. He was buried in Westminster Abbey where most all of
England's great are buried.9


Newton's accomplishments in life were many. Generally, he devoted much of his energy
towards alchemy, theology, and history. In 1668, Newton built the first reflecting telescope.
During his lifetime he was involved in the development of the calculus. It was Newton who
struck upon the Laws of Motion and the Law of Gravitation. He sat in parliament, 1689-90.
In 1696, he was appointed warden of the Mint; and then, in 1699, he was appointed the
master of the Mint, a position which he held until his death. He sat again in parliament in
1701 for his university. In 1703, Newton was to become the president of the Royal Society,
another post that he held at his death. In 1705, Newton was knighted by Queen Anne.

As already mentioned, Newton's principal work was brought forth in 1687, Philosophiae
Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy); it is the
first and the greatest work ever written on theoretical physics. In this work, Newton
showed how his principle of universal gravitation explained both the motions of heavenly
bodies and the falling of bodies on earth. "Every body continues in its state of rest, or of
uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces
impressed upon it. ... The change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed;
and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed. ... [and] To
every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or, the mutual actions of two bodies
upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts." And there you have it:
Newton's Laws of Motion.

Thus, Newton determined that there did exist natural laws. One law was that there did
exist an attractive force (gravity); it exists between any two particles of matter. He
developed his explanation of this natural law as it relates to light between the years 1664
and 1666. This force described by Newton was thought to be of equal application
throughout the universe, here on earth and, out there, among the cosmos; it came to be
called "universal gravitation." It is this same force that will haul the ungriped coffee cup
crashing to the floor, and keeps the celestial objects in their path.


Newton struck upon his theory of gravitation at the age of 23. Like most perfectionists
Newton was cautious in his pronouncements, such that, the publication of this theory was
not to take place until many years later.10

Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation has been described as follows: It is a force between
any two bodies and is "directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely
proportional to the square of the distance between them. ... The measure of the force of
gravitation on a given body on earth is the weight of that body." While certain of Newton's
theories have not stood the tests applied in the 20th century, his law of universal gravitation
has stood: "In the general theory of relativity, gravitation is explained geometrically:
matter in its immediate neighborhood causes the curvature of the four-dimensional space-
time continuum."


Newton's scientific enquiries led to the development of a fundamental scientific tool --

differential calculus. But this was something he just did en route, just so much staging.
Newton's fame rests and will forever rest on his formulations in regards to motion and
attraction, as found in his work, Principia.

"The calculus, as developed by Newton, could be used and was used by him for the solving of a great
variety of mechanical and hydrodynamic problems. It immediately became the mathematical
instrument for all understanding of variables and motion, and hence of all mechanical engineering,
and remained almost the exclusive one until well into the present century. In a very real sense it was
as much an instrument of the new science as the telescope."11

Differential Calculus, or, as Newton called it, "Theory of Fluxions" was developed by Newton as early
as 1666, but it was only published in 1704 as an appendix to Newton's book, Optics.12 Prior to these
times, mathematicians and astronomers "used intricate geometrical constructions ..."13

There was controversy on the point as to who exactly was the first person to discover the
system of differential and integral calculus. Some say it was Newton; others would say it
was the German, Leibniz. "The verdict of science is that the methods were invented
independently, and that although Newton was the first inventor, a greater debt is owning to
Leibniz for the superior facility and completeness of his method."14 What Newton and
Leibniz were to do, was to invent a tool, the calculus, in order to come up with proofs for
these answers as were formulated in their impressive and active brains. With such a
mathematical tool as the calculus, Newton was able to calculate the mass of each of the
planets; sun and earth included. He estimated that the earth's density was between five and
six times that of water (the figure by scientists today is 5.5). A number of very brilliant
men, down through the generations, have looked at Newton's work and have shook their
heads: his work was "above the reach of human reason and experience."15


Newton's Light Theory was published in 1704; his Opticks set forth the theory that light is
composed of particles. "Light," according to Newton, "is composed of tiny particles, or
corpuscles, emitted by luminous bodies." This particle theory dominated optics until the
19th century when it was replaced by the wave theory of light.16 Generally though,
Newton's light theory was accepted until the 20th century, when experiments were carried
out by Michelson and Einstein which led to the electromagnetic theory of light.

Torricelli, Evangelista (1608-47):

Italian scientist who was to become a helper (amanuensis) to

Galileo. Upon Galileo' death, in 1642, Torricelli was to take a position at the Florentine
Academy. We will always know him for the invention of the "Torricellian tube." It was on
account of Torricelli's experiments that we were to come to better under stand the nature
of atmospheric pressure, for example, it was Torricelli who first determined that water will
not rise above 33 feet in a suction pump. So, too, it is to Torricelli that we owe the first
statement of the principles of hydro mechanics. His efforts also led to considerable
improvements to both the telescope and microscope. First and foremost, however,
Torricelli was a mathematician and he is credited with "several mathematical discoveries."

Boyle, Robert (1627-91):

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish physicist and chemist. Often referred to as the
father of modern chemistry. It was Boyle who separated chemistry from alchemy
and gave the first precise definitions of a chemical element, a chemical reaction, and
chemical analysis. He invented a vacuum pump and used it in the discovery of what
has become known as Boyle's law. The principles of Boyle's Law were published in
1662. It goes like this: the volume of a given mass of gas (the temperature being
constant) varies inversely as the pressure; or, that the pressure and volume of a gas
are inversely proportional.

Giordano Bruno

Born near Naples, in a place a place called Nola (Campania), Bruno was one of the
new breed of scientists who shunned the stilted philosophy of Aristotle; and, thus,
came afoul the doctrines of the church. At first he was part of the church (entirely
necessary in those days if one was to receive any kind of an education), a
Dominican; but not for long. He fled Italy for Geneva and then went to England,
that enlighten country, were he taught for awhile (Oxford). He eventually (1585)
returned to Europe and traveled extensively, seemingly to avoid his holy pursuers.
In 1592, Bruno was arrested by the ecclesiastical authorities (The Inquisition) and
put on trial for his beliefs, beliefs based on the real world such as those of
Copernicus, and which he would not recant. After a seven year trail, Bruno, in an
act which forever branded the church as an intolerant institution, at Rome, was put
to death by burning.

Hooke, Robert (1635-1703):

Coming from the Isle of Wight, Hooke went to Oxford (Christ Church). He was to be a student

Robert Boyle's. In 1662, he became curator of experiments to the Royal Society and, in
1677, its secretary. In 1665 he published Micrographia a book on botany, chemistry, etc.
Hooke anticipated the steam engine by describing that bodies of material can be extended
or compressed, depending on their elasticity: Hooke's Law. It seems he realized that man
might be able to see beyond the edges if only he had better tools; he therefore set out to
invent them. To Hooke is contributed, in a material way, the invention of the quadrant,
Gregorian telescope and microscope. It therefore should not come as a surprise that many
discoveries are contributed to Robert Hooke.

Huygens, Christiaan (1629-93):

The Dutch physicist who was to make, in 1657, on the suggestion of

Galileo, the pendulum clock. In 1655, he discovered the ring and fourth satellite of Saturn. Huygens
had a particular interest in the nature of light and was to propound a theory that it was undulating,
thus striking upon, "wave theory."

Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804):

Priestley was an English presbyterian minister and chemist. He was, we see in Chambers, "a
pioneer in the chemistry of gases, and one of the discovers of oxygen." He met Benjamin
Franklin who was to supply Priestley with books which assisted him in the writing of, in 1767,
The History of Electricity. In 1772 he was appointed to the French Academy of Sciences; and, in
1780, the St. Petersburg Academy. Priestley, as a minister (dissenting) was much concerned
with the human condition and what if any steps that might be taken to relieve suffering, and,
was to express his views in his writings: he wrote a reply to

Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution.