Selected 17th Century Scientists

© 2013, Martin Rinehart

We have selected five scientists for this website. While any selection of the "most important" is subject to great debate, we only claim that these five are all very important. They all worked in the related sciences of mathematics, physics and astronomy.

One of the difficulties you face in dealing with historical figures is that lives don't often fall neatly into a single century. To argue by the bookends that these men are all correctly known as "17th century" scientists, we point out two facts. While Galileo was an important scientist in the late 16th century, he is best known for his telescope (1609) and the discoveries he made using it. Newton worked well into the 18th century, but his classic Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, explaining the calculus and his three laws of what is now known as physics, was published in 1687.

Our five 17th century scientists are:
Portrait of Galileo
Galileo Galilei
Portrait of Kepler
Johannes Kepler
Portrait of Descartes
René Descartes
Portrait of Fermat
Pierre de Fermat
Portrait of Newton
Sir Isaac Newton


First, we locate these five in time.
Timeline of our 17th century scientists.
Then, we locate them in space.
Map of Europe
  1. Locating Our Scientists
    1. In Time
    2. In Space
  2. Details About Our Scientists
    1. Galileo Newton's words
    2. Kepler Newton's words
    3. Descartes Newton's words
    4. Fermat Newton's words
    5. Newton about himself

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