Evolution  of understanding


Without clocks and calendars, hunter gatherers relied on solar, and planetary observatories to track the days and seasons.











In the UK, Stonehenge was built as an astronomical observatory. There are many other examples of observatories built by  hunter gatherers . 

There are examples of star observations in Egyptian hieroglyphics, a priority after accounting !


The first flourish of explanations of  the underlying facts of the world came during the Greek enlightenment  600 BC-27AD. Starting in 600 BC, many Greek cities formed Republics in a fledgling democracy. These cities supported some of the earliest scientific inquiries for example; in geometry by Pythogoras and Euclid, in theoretical astronomy by Aristarcus, and medicine by  Hippocrates.






The idea that the Earth circled the sun - "Heliocentric universe" - was first proposed by Aristarcus. "His (Aristarcus) hypotheses are that the fixed stars and the sun remain unmoved, that the earth revolves about the sun on the circumference of a circle, the sun lying in the middle of the orbit"  in "The Sand Reckoner" by Archimedes. Aristarchus also estimated the sizes of the Sun and Moon as compared to Earth's size. He also estimated the distances from the Earth to the Sun and Moon. He is considered one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity along with Hipparchus, and one of the greatest thinkers in human history.





Euclidian geometry is still taught today.


Democritus proposed the existence of molecules. 

None of these insights gained lasting traction. Once the Romans took over Greece, and instituted emperors, they  re-established religious dogma as their understanding of how the world worked. The fact that priests were virtually the only people who could read and write helped ensure the dominance of dogma. 


Elsewhere, Chinese discovered the compass around 300 BC. The "Silk Road" started trans- continental trade and exchange.












In the early 1000'sAD, Islamic scholars in Samarkand developed maths and improved astronomical observations. 

In the 1100's the Cinque ports emerged as ports forming a trading network in northern europe. Guilds of skilled craftsman formed a early middle class throughout Europe. In the 1300's, the Hanseatic league centered on Germany formed a even larger trading network. 

The Renaissance popes living in the Republic city states of northern Italy in the 1417 to the 1530's had uncontested control over the Christians that dominated Europe.  They  supported a new breed of open thinkers, such as Leonardo Da Vinchi, Michaelangelo, etc. They changed the trajectory of science by accepting that the search for  scientific understanding was  not in conflict with religious dogma.

In 1455, the Gutenberg printed the first bibles. By 1500, at least half a million books had entered circulation. These books ranged from Columbus’ account of the New World to classical Greek texts. Printing  enabled greater literacy and enabled the acceptance of new ideas.

Leonardo Da Vinchi (1452-1549 AD)  was the most famous  benificiary.  Michelangelo​ was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet (1475–1564)


In the 1490's Copernicus went to college and was exposed to early Greek ideas. In 1533, Johann Widmanstetter, secretary to Pope Clement VII, explained Copernicus's heliocentric system to the Pope and two cardinals. The Pope was so pleased that he gave Widmanstetter a valuable gift.

Galileo (1564-1642 AD) still fell foul of the  Reformation Catholic Church dogma for championing Copernicus's ideas, and even  in 1859 Darwin imposed a self imposed delay in Origin of Species possibly due to religious pressure with debate continued  through  the Scopes monkey trial in 1925, until today. 

At the same time the drive towards democracy started in the late 1700's and 1800's with revolutions in the US and France, and constitutional monarchy in the UK. It is not surprising that the intellectual  freedom to discover and the freedom to pick your own leader are linked. 

Our understanding of astronomy has been enabled by some of the most famous in science; Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), Albert Einstein (1879–1955), and Stephen Hawking (1942 –2018)

The Scientific and Industrial Revolution has literally changed the world, transforming our understanding of the world.

Scientific medicine transformed life expectancy leading to a population explosion. Improvements in education led to many more practicing scientists and engineers, which in turn accelerated the technical revolution.

 The increasing population needed food and energy which led to massive use of fossil fuels leading directly to todays climate change. 


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