Renaissance II

Effects of the Explorations in Europe

A lot of silver and gold was brought from the “New World” to Spain and Portugal that resulted in significant inflation. Prosperity did not spread to the masses.

New plants: corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts spread not only to Europe but also to China ([MORR] p. 435).

Charles V ruled (1519 – 1556) as Holy Roman Emperor over Spain, The Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Southern Italy, etc. He fought a lot of wars with France. He also stopped the Ottoman advance to Vienna in 1529. He was succeeded by his younger brother Ferdinand I as Holy Roman Emperor (1556 - 1564) and his son Philip II as King of Spain (1556 –1598).

By the way: It was only in 1648, under the Peace of Westphalia, that European countries recognized Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality, even thought the Swiss confederacy of cantons dates from around 1290.

Charles V and Philip II tried to suppress the Reformation (see below). They taxed their subjects heavily and borrowed heavily from Italian financiers. At Phillip II’s death, the Spanish debt was fifteen times its annual revenue ([MORR], p. 449). The conquest of the New World did not bring long time prosperity to Spain.

Key event is the failure to unify Europe. No single autocrat as in China (ibid).


The same period (15th and early 16th centuries) also saw a flourishing of the arts and literature.

Artists: Leonardo da Vinci (1452 –1519), Michelangelo (1475 –1564), Raphael (1483 – 1520)

Patron of Arts: Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492)

Writers: Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) Florence, Erasmus (1466-1536) Rotterdam in the Netherlands.


Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468). Around 1439 he invented printing with movable type (the Chinese used fixed type) that had enormous impact by making books available to the broad public. It was not until half a millennium later that the World Wide Web had a similar impact on the dissemination of information.

Impact on Religion: Now copies of the Bible were available to many people. This led to the Protestant Reformation starting with Luther (1483-1546). He posted his theses in 1517.

KNOWLEDGE (to 1650)

Astronomy and Physics

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 –1543) [Poland, but also studied in Italy] Heliocentric system.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) [Denmark] Collected a lot of astronomical data trying to prove geocentrism. He worked near Prague. His assistant was Kepler.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) [German]. Laws of planetary motions that set the foundations for Newton’s work. (His mother was accused for witchcraft and served several months in jail.) Kepler made horoscopes for the Holy Roman Emperor.

Kepler's laws:

The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the Sun at one of the two foci.

A line joining a planet and the Sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.

The square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) [Tuscany]. Not only astronomy but also theoretical mechanics. In 1589 his observations on falling bodies revolutionized the experimental method. In 1610 discovers the moons of Jupiter using the newly invented telescope (1608).

William Gilbert (1544 –1603) described the magnetic properties of the earth.

Francis Bacon (1561 –1626). He famously died by contracting pneumonia while studying the effects of freezing on the preservation of meat.

The Life Sciences

The Greeks had pursued Medicine and their last famous physician was Claudius Galen (129-200 CE). His theories dominated and influenced Western medical science for more than 1,300 years. His anatomical reports were based mainly on dissection of monkeys and pigs.

The most famous physician of the Arab Golden Age was ibn Sina or Avicenna (980-1037), Arab speaking Persian physician and philosopher. His 14-volume The Canon of Medicine (Al-Qanoon fi al-Tibb, The Laws of Medicine) was a standard medical text in Europe and the Islamic world until the 18th century.[ His work was based on that of Galen.]

Less well know is the Syrian Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288) who discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood. (Galen had it wrong.)

During the Renaissance the Europeans took over where the Greeks and the Arabs had left. The Spaniard Michael Servetus (1509-1553) discovered independently the pulmonary circulation of the blood but he angered the church authorities (both Catholic and Protestant) and was put to death.

William Harvey (1578-1657), an Englishman who studied in Padua is credited with the modern discovery of the pulmonary circulation of the blood.

Paracelsus (1493-1541), a German who studied in Ferrara is credited with the application of chemistry to physiology and pathology.

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), a Dutchman who studied in Padua supplanted Galen’s anatomical textbook.

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