350 Years of coming to grips with the experimental activities of Galileo and his followers
Most early accounts of seventeenth-century Italian science, beginning with those produced immediately after Galileo’s death in 1642, were written almost purely with an experimentalist image in mind. They project the theme that Galileo and his students and followers in seventeenth-century Tuscany pursued a form of inquiry that included only the performance of experiments and the inductive collection of matters of fact. They claim that Galileo came up with a loosely articulated experimental method that was exploited and perfected by his students and followers to the point of providing a standard of research recognisable as ‘modern science’. More recently, several ‘cultural’ historians have provided more valuable contributions, associating experimental philosophy with the social and political context of the Tuscan Court. The aim of this chapter, then, is to evaluate the validity of the different traditional and cultural accounts of Italian early modern science. This will be done by also examining the issues that these historiographies have failed to mention, in particular, the culture of natural philosophical theorising and contention that existed throughout all of Europe during the seventeenth century, and that included a clash between Aristotelians and the new and changing versions of mechanism. We begin with the traditional accounts regarding the supposed experimental method of Galileo and the academicians who followed him.
KeywordsExperimental Activity Seventeenth Century Experimental Science Knowledge Claim Scientific Revolution
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