Scientific Innovation of Historical Scientists

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Scientific Innovations of Historical Scientists

Scientists may want to pride in the great scientific invention people enjoy today. However, some historical individuals laid the foundation on which they work. Most of them retreated on the background and got overshadowed by their legacy (Dunn, 2005). This paper compares innovations of historical scientists such as Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Nicolas Copernicus and why in the 16th century they challenged and undermined Ptolemaic Orthodoxy.

Isaac Newton and the Reflecting Telescope

The man behind the invention of reflecting telescope was Newton. In his time the only available telescope was a refracting one which was not ideal because its lenses focused different colors at varying distances which would result in colored fringes that made them out of focus (Dunn, 2005). Newton used mirrors to solve this problem instead of lenses which not only removed the colored edges but also magnified the things it focused by around 40 times. Newton also proposed a novel theory of color and light resulting from his discovery that all the rainbow colors were in the sun. He said that the colors of the Prisme converged and mixed to form white light. Newton also discovered calculus after realizing that speed and direction were in a state of continuous flux and continually changing (Dunn, 2005). He also found out that mathematics was not sufficient to calculate such. Calculus enabled him to draw and calculate tangents to curves. Newton also established three laws of motion. They are the law of inertia, the law of acceleration and that of action and reaction. He also developed universal gravitation law.

Nicolas Copernicus and the Heliocentric Model

Nicolas Copernicus who was both an astronomer and a mathematician proposed that the sun was in the center of the universe and was stationary while the earth rotates around it. He disputed Ptolemy's geocentric model which stated that all planetary bodies were in motion. Copernicus determined to remove Ptolemy's equant through the creation of the heliocentric model which revealed that the distance of the celestials from the sun had a relationship with its orbits size. His heliocentric idea changed the way people viewed the world, and they began seeing him as a developer of Scientific Revolution (Rabin, 2015). According to Aristotle's principle which the classical astronomy followed the universe comprised of four components which were the earth, air fire, and water. The earth was in the center and that the rest were below the moon. The moon was the closest planetary body, and all heavenly body moved around. The observers later got to know that unlike what Aristotle had made them believe, the celestial bodies did not move and that the earth was not at the center and that the movement was not uniform.

The Contributions of Ptolemy

Ptolemy differed significantly with Aristotle, and that is why astronomers believed him because they had also seen faults in Aristotle's claims. He, therefore, achieved a significant and long-lasting influence. He said that the earth moved in epicycles meaning that the bodies movement was like that of a flat helical coil around the planet (Rabin, 2015). Ptolemy showed that the moon was twice as big as the earth and twice as far. In Ptolemy's theory of the solar, he assumed an impossible arrangement. Copernicus was dissatisfied with Ptolemy's quaint, and it forced him to want to find out the reliability of his other claims through the heliocentric model. Copernicus did a careful analysis of the celestial model to come up with the heliocentric theory.

Galileo Galilei and the Mathematical Approach

Galileo applied mathematics in his study of motion. His argument was on the "how" instead of the "why" of Aristotle. He used a quantifiable component like distance, acceleration and time to show how objects fall, break, move or bend (Koch, 2002). He valued science in all his reasoning. Unlike his predecessors, he was able to measure motion. Aristotelian philosophers including Ptolemy disputed that nature would be viewed from a mathematical approach, but Galileo proved them wrong. He revealed that nature's numerical analysis was a wave of the future.

Overturning the Ptolemy Orthodoxy

Although it took hard work for Newton, Copernicus, and Galileo to change the perception as well as the mindset of the astronomers and the people against the Ptolemy orthodoxy claims, eventually through experiments, scientific innovations, and mathematics they were able to convince them. It earned them great recognition and fame to date.


Dunn, A., (2005). Newton’s Legacy. Retrieved from

Koch, D., H., (2002). Galileo’s Place in Science. Retrieved from

Rabin S., (2015) Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Nicolaus Copernicus Retrieved from

November 24, 2023

History Science

Subject area:

Scientific Revolution

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