Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
The 18th century was a period of remarkable scientific breakthroughs. This began with the scientific advances of the 16th and 17th centuries, when people began to reject unproven theories and superstition in favor of careful observation, and carried out experiments to test ideas.
Table 51. NEW SCIENCE
The first microscopes were made in the Netherlands in about 1590. Their design was improved by Robert Hooke and Anton van Leeuwenhoek. Van Leeuwenhoek made many important observations and in 1675 was the first person to see bacteria, or germs.
In 1597, English student William Harvey went to Padua in Italy, which was then a center for studying the human body. He returned to become royal doctor, and in 1628 declared that blood was pumped around the body by the heart. Many doctors ridiculed his views, but Harvey was correct. His discovery changed our understanding of the human body forever.
From the Middle Ages to the early 18th century, alchemists believed they could turn ordinary metals into gold, and so find the secret of everlasting life. Although this was impossible, alchemy did provide a basis for useful experiments in chemistry, and inspired the genuine research of Robert Boyle.
Telescopes were invented in the Netherlands in about 1608. In 1668, Isaac Newton was the first to use mirrors to improve the image seen through the telescope.
Irish chemist and physicist Robert Boyle experimented with gases and with vacuums (in which gases are pumped out of a space). He introduced the idea of chemical elements, essential to the development of chemistry as a science.