Thomas Harriot, England’s First Telescopist
The mid-16th century was an era of profound social and political change in Europe; the Protestant Reformation swept across the kingdoms of the north, while in the southern reaches of the continent, Roman Catholicism still prevailed. The Renaissance juggernaut had introduced radical new ideas in the spheres of science, architecture, politics, art and literature, inspired by a palpable sense of nostalgia for the triumphs of classical antiquity. Knowledge, for so long the mainstay of the rich and powerful, was now being disseminated at a hitherto unprecedented rate to the ‘lower’ strata of European society, doubtless stoked by the invention of the printing press, which had empowered a new generation of scholars. And it was not just in Latin, the traditional language of the educated, but in the lingua franca of the various kingdoms, principalities and nation states of a new and self-confident Europe.
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