"Science Buzz" for the Renaissance

Although art and entertainment usually take center stage at the Renaissance Festival each year, 16th-century Europe was full of scientific breakthroughs and controversies. Here's some "science buzz" for fans of the Renaissance.

World maps published since 1507 show dry land in the oceans between Europe and Asia—and call that land "America." The name honors Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who reportedly reached the mainland in 1497. Soon afterward, cartographers also propose that "America" might be two full continents instead of just one, causing critics to complain that Amerigo is getting too much credit.

After making detailed observations of the sky, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus reconfigures the movement of the planets in a book published in 1543 and concludes that the Earth orbits the Sun—not the other way around. Many Europeans disapprove of this new theory, preferring longheld beliefs that Earth is the center of the universe.

In another book from 1543, physician Andreas Vesalius includes precise diagrams of human internal anatomy, greatly improving on traditional texts developed in ancient Greece. But Vesalius gained this new knowledge by dissecting human corpses, which most Renaissance physicians deem as immoral and strictly off-limits.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Cool article James. Do you know of any websites where you have seen images of the things you reference? I would be excited to see one of those old maps that you mention.

I did find this very cool image from the cover of one of Vesalius' manuscripts. It shows a large room of people gathering around a very unfortunate looking surgery victim, who I at least hope is dead.
bryan kennedy
Science Buzz Site Admin

posted on Wed, 08/31/2005 - 12:50pm
James Satter's picture

Here is a site that includes the first world map (from 1507) that labeled America as a continent. I've seen this map reproduced in reference books as well.

posted on Thu, 09/01/2005 - 9:17am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I think that it is really cool that maps can tell you all that and more

posted on Mon, 12/26/2005 - 1:22pm

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