Scientific Revolution Scavenger Hunt
Directions: It’s on! In teams of two or three, you will be competing to discover as much as possible
about the ‘famous folks’ of the Scientific Revolution. You’ll have to utilize the various stations around
the room to complete the questions below.
Today you’ll be learning about (just to name a few) Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Bacon, Descartes,
Harvey, and Winkelmann. Get ready to rumble.
Part I: Good Old-Fashioned Scavenger Hunt—You should be answering these in 2-3 complete
sentences. Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper, please!
1. This Polish priest got into a bit of trouble for his astronomical theories. Who was he, and what was
so heretical about his findings?
2. Why did Galileo recant?
3. In what ways has Newton influenced our world?
4. How did the plague impact the Math department?
5. Galileo was tried by this group for his findings.
6. What’s the problem with having craters on the moon?
7. Who came up with the theory that the planets move in elliptical, rather than circular, orbits?
8. How did the “intellectual center” of Europe shift during the Scientific Revolution?
9. This piece of technology was incredibly important to astronomers! It also got Galileo into a heap of
10. How did Galileo help ‘prove’ that the heliocentric theory was correct?
11. This academic group was formed to encourage scientists to challenge each other, publish their
findings, and fund further research.
12. How does Bacon differ from Descartes?
13. What were the four rules Descartes came up with to direct investigations and studies?
14. Describe the medieval view of the human body—how does Harvey change and challenge these
15. Why were women often discouraged or blocked from engaging in scientific inquiry (research,
Part II: Historical Limericks: Which historical figures wrote these poems?
# 1: #4:
While people may certainly object, If my brain is as quick-sharp as yours,
In the end, they’ll no doubt reflect Then open up university doors!
On my awesome conclusions Seriously, people
That Ptolemy is disillusioned! I’m more than an equal
Geocentrism? Pfft. Disrespect. And I bet I could beat your test scores.
Why bother with those telescopes? Folks oft have quoted me saying:
Place your science’s trust in the Pope! “I think, so I am,” no one’s playing.
We promise you clearly Dig duality!
You’ll regret your choice dearly You will probably see
When the rack’s broke your bones with a rope. Deductive reasoning’s sure worth relaying.
I am finding it somewhat inviting Can you believe what we thought true before?
The skies through this lens are enlightening! We dissect people, now, not just boars!
Please believe what I’ve seen! Anatomy is an art
It’s not just a dream! Have you learned that the heart
The Starry Messenger has all my writings! Is our blood-system center and core?
Station #1: Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) was a mathematician and astronomer who proposed that the sun was
stationary in the center of the universe and the earth revolved around it. The belief that the sun is the
center of the universe is also known as the heliocentric theory.
Why did Copernicus come up with a heliocentric theory? Copernicus was disturbed by the failure of
Ptolemy's geocentric model of the universe, because Ptolemy’s model really didn’t explain why all
celestial (heavenly) bodies moved around one particular point (Ptolemy called this point the equant).
Copernicus decided that he could correct Ptolemy only through a heliocentric model. He thereby
created a concept of a universe in which the distances of the planets from the sun bore a direct
relationship to the size of their orbits—in short, Copernicus said that the further planets were from the
sun, the larger their orbits would be. That’s why a “year” on Earth is NOT the same length as a “year” on
Jupiter or Venus.
Before Copernicus, people believed that heavenly bodies circled the Earth—our moon (this one is true!),
the Sun, Venus, Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter. People also believed that between the Earth and the moon
above, there were different ‘elements’ that existed—including earth, water, air, fire, and this heavenly
‘essence’ called ether. Ether was what made the planets move in perfect circles around the Earth—at
least, that’s what people believed back in the medieval ages! While certain Muslim scholars attacked
this worldview of Aristotle and Ptolemy, most people accepted it as fact. (Can YOU find a way to prove
the planets don’t revolve around the Earth from physical evidence we can see?)
At the time Copernicus's heliocentric idea was very controversial; Copernicus waited to publish his
theories until he was on his deathbed! Nevertheless, Copernicus’ findings, written down in On the
Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), was the start of a change in the way the world was viewed,
and Copernicus came to be seen as the initiator of the Scientific Revolution. The Catholic Church would
ban Copernicus’ teachings as heresy for years, ban his books (or burn them) . . . The relationship
between Copernicus’ ideas and the Catholic Church is ironic—Copernicus was actually a canon (a
position just below that of a bishop) and held this religious position for much of his life!
Another astronomer by the name of Johann Kepler would later tweak Copernicus’ theories and prove
that our planets move in ellipses, not in circles!
Station #2: Galileo Galilei
Galileo was another controversial figure of the Scientific Revolution. Unfortunately, unlike Copernicus,
Galileo’s findings were published and discussed well in advance of his death, which meant that Galileo
attracted some unwelcome attention from the Inquisition (remember them?). But we’ll get to Galileo’s
troubles with the Catholic Church a little later!
First, let’s talk about Galileo’s claims to fame. Galileo was one of the first Europeans to really use the
telescope. And the things he saw, ladies and gentlemen, changed the way Europeans saw the heavens
above them—big time. Galileo was the first person to point out that the moon’s surface wasn’t perfect.
Think about it: when you watch a video of Neil Armstrong on the moon, you see craters, and crevasses,
and ridges. The moon isn’t a perfect orb! This discovery of Galileo’s helped disprove Ptolemy’s and
Aristotle’s theories that the planets (and all heavenly bodies) were perfect, because they were in the
“heavens” (where medieval Europeans believed God was). Interesting, right?
Not for the Catholic Church. Proving that the heavens weren’t perfect was a heretical claim, and the
powers-that-be watched Galileo’s discoveries and writings (like the instantly popular Starry Messenger,
written in 1610) with increasing annoyance.
Galileo hit Ptolemy’s theory with another solid punch when he discovered that Jupiter has moons (ooh!
Like the Earth!), but Jupiter’s moons revolve around Jupiter (duh), and not the earth. What this meant
for European thinkers was (brace yourselves). . .
Not everything revolved around the Earth. Galileo’s findings supported Copernicus’ concept of a
heliocentric universe. They were, just like that ‘scarred surface of the moon’ discovery, incredibly
As if all his discoveries weren’t enough, Galileo also made advancements in physics. He came up with
the idea of inertia—that objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by another force. This
idea (later taken up by people like Isaac Newton and your favorite BHS physics teacher) was considered
heretical. If objects (like planets) could move on their own, where did God fit into the equation?!? The
Catholic Church was not pleased.
Tensions really boiled over between the Catholic Church and Galileo when Galileo published a discussion
about Copernicus’ theories, called Dialogue on the Great World Systems in 1632. Even though Galileo
wrote himself into the book as a supporter of the Church, he was called before the Inquisition in Rome.
Galileo was seventy years old! Faced with the threat of torture and death (on the rack, most likely),
Galileo recanted—he took back and denied his discoveries. He promised to never speak of his
discoveries again, and was put under house arrest for the rest of his life!
The Church banned Galileo’s works for 200 years. But that didn’t stop other scientists and thinkers from
questioning and investigating the world around them.
Station #3: Bacon and Descartes
What’s Bacon got to do with World History? And who’s Descartes? Well, boys and girls, Bacon and
Descartes are teaming up for this station because they made similar contributions to the Scientific
Revolution. Both men also helped shape the way you approach problems in science labs, as well as the
way we generally problem-solve and reach conclusions in any situation—school, work, among friends.
They’re the unsung heroes of logic. Let’s see what they’ve got:
Francis Bacon wasn’t a scientist. So why is he associated with the Scientific Revolution? Bacon’s ideas
on how to problem solve made the job of scientists easier—he basically came up with a procedure to
ponder new ideas and test theories. We call this the scientific method—a systematic procedure for
collecting and analyzing evidence.
Bacon was all about inductive reasoning—reaching conclusions after a long time of observation. Think
about it: How might you reach a conclusion about what your boyfriend (or girlfriend’s) favorite drink at
Starbucks was? You’d have to watch them order a number of times to see if there was one drink (i.e.
Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino) they tended to order more than other drinks. If you only observed
them one time (and that was the time they tried the chai latte, instead of their usual Peppermint
Mocha), you might erroneously (wrongfully) conclude that their favorite drink was chai. Bacon
encouraged scientists to only make conclusions after many observations. This is one reason why today
scientists repeat experiments several times before publishing their findings!
Bacon would ask you “What can you see that tells you something is true?” He’s a fan of empiricism—
concrete knowledge based off of physical (or sensory) observation. How do you know that dish in the
microwave is a brownie? Because it smells like chocolate and is dark brown with a rectangular shape.
Descartes, on the other hand . . . Well, Descartes would say that you should reach your conclusions
through logic, rather than Bacon’s observation. Use logic to come to your conclusion: It’s after dinner. I
made brownies yesterday. It is almost dessert time. Brownies are a sweet food, suitable for dessert
consumption. They are comprised (made up) of chocolate and other ingredients, baked in bar form, and
cut into rectangular shapes. Brownies are best served warm. Therefore, the dish being warmed up in
the microwave is probably a brownie.
Descartes also came up with four steps that became a part of the Scientific Method:
1. Never accept anything as the truth.
2. Divide any question into many separate questions.
3. Begin with the most simple and proceed to the most complex questions.
4. Be confident you haven’t overlooked anything essential.
Perhaps Descartes’ largest contribution to our world was his thoughts on the mind. Descartes divided
the mind into two parts: (1) the rational part that observes the world and helps us describe things
around us, and (2) the intuitive side—where our feelings come from; the side that makes decisions.
Descartes’ division of the mind is known as Cartesian duality (or dualism). He argued that we can
investigate and conduct experiments, make observations, etc. of the world because the world is
detached from ourselves—we can use reason to understand the world!! And this ability to reason (we
all have it, as humans) is a huge part of our existence. Without it, we couldn’t make choices based on
logic. Hence the famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” (In the Latin, Cognito ergo sum)
Station #4: Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton is just one example of a major shift that occurred in Europe during the Scientific
Revolution and Enlightenment. Before the Scientific Revolution, Europe’s center of learning was in
Italy—the home of the Renaissance! However, due to the Inquisition, many scholars left Italy (or were
discouraged from publishing their writings there) and instead moved north into more Protestant regions
of Europe. By 1650, Protestant Northern Europe was leading the way in terms of science and trade—
essentially replacing Italy.
Newton was a British wiz-kid: despite his upbringing, he loved mathematics and got into Cambridge (no
small feat). Funny story, Newton actually invented calculus while staying home and avoiding a nasty
resurgence of plague (the Black Death) in 1665-1666! That’s right, Newton invented calculus. While at
home. On break from college. Think about that over winter break!
Some people think that Newton got his ‘gravity’ epiphany from getting konked on the head by an apple.
But that isn’t entirely true. While he did get hit on the head by an apple, Newton had been wondering
about what we call ‘gravity’ for much longer than his stint in the orchard.
Newton was curious (like Galileo was) about the moon, and so Isaac wondered why the moon never
crashed into Earth. From this question, Newton eventually came up with the idea that the moon is
pulled towards earth, but rather than crash into earth, is pulled in a circle around it. Crazy!
Newton also did work in physics—you know, all those laws you had to (or will have to) memorize?
“Objects in motion remain in motion unless acted on by another object.” “Every action has an equal
and opposite reaction.” That whole gravity thing. The man was a machine!
As if that wasn’t enough, Newton also was a pioneer in optics and light. He realized that the color
spectrum you get when looking at a rainbow, or through a crystal prism, is actually the entire spectrum
of colors of all light in the universe. Wild.
Newton’s findings about gravity are encapsulated in the Principia, his writings on the subject. The
impact of Principia and Newton really can’t be overstated—until Einstein’s concept of relativity,
Newton’s view of the universe as an orderly, mathematical, predictable machine was the viewpoint
Station #5: Winkelmann and Women
As a result of all the great discoveries being made, and all the fabulous books and essays being written
about those new discoveries, scientific societies began to form around Europe to discuss, debate, and
analyze findings. These groups helped promote even further research, challenged each other to think in
new, creative ways, and even published findings to distribute to other scholars.
The most famous of these societies was the Royal Society (founded in 1662 in London). The Royal
Society, and other similar groups, helped inspire advances in technology. These technological
developments led to better, healthier crops, more efficient farming methods, more accurate
navigational tools for exploration . . . you get the idea! Academic societies helped create a cycle of
knowledge that kept renewing itself through new ideas and conversations.
Scientists often competed to get into societies—it was a sign of recognition and of their
accomplishments (like the Hall of Fame, but for Bill Nye). One group, however, was often overlooked in
academic societies. That’s right, ladies, female scientists and philosophers during the Scientific
Revolution often made important discoveries, arguments, and conclusions, but were excluded in several
Margaret Cavendish and Maria Winkelmann both wrote extensively in several areas of science—
Winkelmann in particular was known for her findings in astronomy. However, many intellectual women
were not allowed to teach as professors at universities. They also could not work in labs, which often
restricted their access to experimenting and testing their theories.
Women were restricted because they were seen as mentally inferior to men (as weaker, frailer). It was
believed by some people that the female brain physically could not handle knowledge and that a woman
who tried to study too much (especially of math, science, and philosophy) ran the danger of going
insane. Women were also restricted from academic societies, universities, and labs because socially
people did not feel it was a woman’s place to challenge men, voice her opinion, or think freely.
Don’t worry, ladies, the Enlightenment helps turn things around
Station #6: Harvey and Hearts
William Harvey was to anatomy what Galileo, Kepler, or Newton was to astronomy. Harvey’s work in
explaining the circulatory system (the one responsible for moving blood throughout our bodies) was
revolutionary! He discovered that the heart is the center of the circulatory system, that the heart is
responsible for pumping and moving blood throughout the body, and that there’s only one kind of blood
in our bodies.
Yep, for a while there, scientists and thinkers (like Vesalius) thought there were two kinds of blood—
blood that was red (the kind you see when you get a paper-cut) and one that was blue (the color of the
veins on your arm).
Harvey published his work in a book called On the Movement of the Heart and Blood (1628).
Before Harvey came on the scene, two scientists had dominated medieval medicine. The first, Galen,
had done dissections on animals, and therefore his concept of how the human body works was a bit off.
Additionally, he believed that the body was composed of four humors (aka ‘essences,’ or materials)—
things like phlegm, blood, and bile. Yum.
Vesalius came after Galen and made some improvements to Galen’s theories—namely because Vesalius
dissected people, and not goats. Unfortunately, Vesalius thought there were two kinds of blood in the
body. . .
Remember that for many ancient civilizations, people felt that the heart, not the mind, was where
judgments and decisions were made, and that the heart was the ‘center’ or ‘home’ of your conscience
and sense of right and wrong. Harvey’s conclusions about the heart being the ‘pump’ for our blood was
revolutionary—even though it seems self-evident to us, now.