Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bowen, Ralph Henry, 1919-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Laplace; Pierre Simon; marquis de; 1749-1827


The philosophic outlook of contemporary intellectuals differs radically from that of their nineteenth century predecessors; this transmutation has been effected primarily by the substitution of science for theology as the central factor in the formation of today's intellectual milieu. Astronomy has been a major scientific field reorienting man's perspective of the traditional philosophic categories of God, Nature, and Man. The cumulative impact of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Laplace, the Herschels and Hinstein has done much to break own down the theocentric Christian world view. The major intellectual development occurring during the nineteenth century was the synthesis built upon three centuries of scientific and philosophic knowledge which supplemented Christian orthodoxy as the determining factor in Western civilization. Between 1830 and 1914 Western thought was recast into secular, scientific and relativistic molds by a wave of iconoclasm encompassing the other major divisions of science, Biblical criticism and archeology, and the growth of the social sciences. This iconoclasts was partially the result of philosophic assimilation and diffusion of astronomical discoveries. This paper traces one aspect of this social history of science: the impact of P. S. Laplace's research in celestial mechanics during the letter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as one factor notifying the then-current frame of reference which subsequently became the substructure on which today's intellectual framework was built.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 44-61)


61 pages




Northern Illinois University

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