In Response to John Gasciogne's Article
"A Reappraisal of the Role of the Universities in the Scientific Evolution"
While Mr. Gascoigne makes good on his contention that the institution of the University played an invaluable role in the scientific revolution both as a basis ground for the education of the majority of scientific minds of the time and as a network for the distribution of new scientific ideas and method, he glosses over some points. He acknowledges that the older, more established Universities served some opposition to new methodologies, particularly observation of empirical evidence vs. logical analysis of pre-existing text and data.
He mentions the theological origin of some of these universities, but neglects to discuss their church origins as a potential source of resistance to new methodologies – this is a glaring omission as the Church’s resistance to scientific progress was a major obstacle to the Scientific Revolution (witness Galileo’s troubles with the Church and his recantation, as well as the strong resistance to the Heliocentric model of the solar system as the displacement of the Geocentric model was in direct opposition to Church doctrine).
His contention that the Universities ultimately served to further the Scientific Revolution, however, is well argued, and certainly meritorious. The majority of scientific minds of the time received their education in the Universities, be they newer secular Universities or older Church-established Universities. Additionally, a significant number of scientists of the time served on the faculty of the schools, and much research was funded by these institutions. He describes a growing accommodation of new methodologies by the Universities in the establishment of new Chairs, an acknowledgment of the validity of the new disciplines. (Though he fails to mention that this is also an indication of a forced diversification and specialization caused by a growing body of scientific knowledge).
A final thought: some of the dissatisfaction he describes on the part of the young scientific minds of the time is akin to young turk syndrome – a rebellion, as it were, of young minds against the established academia that seems to occur in near every generation. This phenomenon is quite prevalent in literary fields of today and can be evidenced by such cries as “Fight the Man” and “Down with the Establishment.” It is almost the natural order of things for young ambitious minds to chaff at those who have come before them and complain that they are being held back by the very institutions that have provided them with their education and that will be funding their future research.