Science in the Renaissance


The Renaissance period was a time of great cultural and academic progression which saw many important scientific discoveries, thanks to an increased desire to learn and to challenge existing ideas.

The invention of the printing press at the start of the Renaissance was one of the most important inventions, allowing the scientific ideas which followed to spread swiftly around the world.

The Scientific Method

This was championed by Sir Francis Bacon as a revolutionary way in examining theories using evidence.

Bacon also believed that scientific experimentation should be done for a reason - modern discoveries should have a purpose for the good of mankind.

The Earth and the Sun

Galileo Galilei's startling observations of the stars through the newly invented telescope challenged the way people understood the heavens.

Before the Renaissance almost everyone believed the Earth was the centre of the solar system and everything else, including the Sun, orbited it. This theory was supported by the Catholic Church and the Roman astronomer, Ptolemy.

Nicolaus Copernicus first proposed this idea of the sun at the centre of the solar system but it was Galileo who gained satisfying evidence for it when he first started using his new telescope in 1609.

Medical Discoveries

Before the renaissance, most of what was known about human biology was based on ancient knowledge from the Greek physician Galen, whose ideas entirely supported those of the Church. Several important scientists emerged in the renaissance to bravely disprove these widely held beliefs.

Andreas Vesalius was a teacher at Padua University in the 16th century, making important new discoveries about human anatomy and demonstrating them to his students. Banned by the Church, Vesalius carried out secret dissections to learn and teach in the university's dissection theatre. His ground-breaking book The Fabrication of The Human Body contained many artistic, detailed, accurate drawings.

William Harvey discovered that blood does not get constantly 're-made' in the liver after being burnt-up in the body (as was previously believed) but is pumped round by the heart, away by the arteries and returned via the veins.

Ambroise Pare was a military surgeon during the French campaigns in Italy in the 16th century. Without his revolutionary use of an ancient Roman remedy to treat painful wounds, to seal them effectively when he ran out of boiling oil, many lives would have been lost. He also invented several surgical instruments and designed artificial limbs.

Photo: Nicolaus Copernicus. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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