Both the Renaissance and the Reformation looked to the past for models. Humanists turned to ancient classical learning. Religious reformers looked to the Bible and early Christian times for inspiration. The Renaissance spirit of inquiry led scientists to explore beyond the knowledge of the ancients.
The ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe and the sun and stars revolved around it. This is an image of Ptolemy's Geocentric Universe.
Beginning in the 1500s, profound changes took place in the sciences that pointed toward a future shaped by a new way of thinking about the physical universe. These new understandings about the physical world became part of what is now called the Scientific Revolution.
Until the mid-1500s, European scholars accepted the ideas set out by ancient Greek thinkers like Aristotle. The Greek astronomer Ptolemy had taught that Earth was the center of the universe.
European scholars long accepted this view because it seemed to agree with common sense. It also followed the teachings of the Church. In the 1500s and 1600s, startling discoveries radically changed the way Europeans viewed the physical world.
In 1543, Polish scholar Nicolaus Copernicus (koh PUR nih kus) published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In it, he proposed a heliocentric, or sun-centered, model of the universe. The sun, he said, stands at the center of the universe. Earth is just one of several planets that revolve around the sun.