Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 1 — Alchemy and Apocalypse, 1500-1660 (Episode #48)

We unearth the tangled roots of the earliest forms of modern science, beginning with the radical alchemical theories of the rabble-rousing healer called Paracelsus, and running through the heated debates over Galileo’s astronomy, which broke down the distinction between the earth and the heavens. Due to these shocks, the old teleological, or purpose-driven, scheme of the world broke down, giving way to a free-for-all of speculation and apocalyptic excitement.We question the historical meaning of the concept of “science,” and consider how modern-day pop scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson portray the past selectively in order to build the myth of reason and science as beacons of light amidst superstition. Suggested Further reading: Walter Pagel, “Paracelsus”; Charles Webster, “The Great Instauration”; Francis Bacon, “The New Atlantis”; Pamela Smith, “The Body of the Artisan”; Deborah Harkness, “The Jewel House”; Frances Yates, “Giordano Bruno” and “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment”; Thomas Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”; Steven Shapin, “The Scientific Revolution”

Also see Becoming Modern: Scientific Revolution, Part 2 — The New Powers, 1660-1800

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