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Posted in: History , Math

There is a lesson to be learned from revieweing the major steps leading to this intellectual upheaval. The study of the heavens provided the first great scientific synthesis in the form of the astronomical theory of Eudoxus. This was followed by the quantitative, practically useful, and highly influential system of Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Further study of the heavens produced the revolutionary astronomy of Copernicus and Kepler. On the basis of a heliocentric theory the universal law of gravitation became a tenable hypothesis. The validity of the law was further attested to by the deduction from it of Kepler’s laws. Finally, the astronomical work of Lagrange and Laplace removed all doubts about the reign of universal mathematical laws in nature. The lesson to be gathered from this history is that the curious stargazer can tell us more about our world than the practical ‘man of affairs’. Our best knowledge of the behavior of even those natural phenomena pervading our immediate environment has come from the contemplation of the heavens and not from the pursuit of practical problems. The sense of law that predisposes men to attribute all phenomena, even completely inexplicable ones, to regular rather than to abnormal behavior of nature, this habit of substituting law for supernatural intervention, was developed by looking away from man’s immediate problems and by studying the motion of the most distant stars.

Taken from Mathematics in Western Culture by Morris Kline.