The Age of Renewal: 1200 - 1600

The first part of this age was the period of Feudalism in Europe, which was brought to an end by the black death c.1350. Beginning in the aftermath of the Black Death this was an age of Recovery and Renaissance, at first a gradual recovery of ancient lost knowledge, and in the end a rapid flood of understanding leading at last to the first fruits of new knowledge. It was also an age of religious upheaval and conflict, with the crusades, and the persecution of supposed witches and of heretics like the Cathars. After the 'reformation' of the christian church and the proliferation of protestant sects this even led to religious wars. The 'renaissance' saw great advances in mathematics and the arts, of music, painting and architecture. It may be noted that the science of this period was mixed up with astrology, alchemy, magic and other occult ideas even in the minds of many of the more enlightened thinkers.

Colour coding: red = mathematics, astronomy, physics orange = materials, chemistry, geology, engineering, architecture yellow = biology, medicine, exploration, anthropology, psychology green = visual art, printing blue = literature, poetry, music mauve = history, philosophy, metaphysics, theology grey = wars, politics, events (indented)


1200 Manuscripts cut on wood block and printed.

c.1201 - 1274 Nasir Al-Din Al-Tusi. Persian mathematician. Commentary on the Almagest. developed trigonometry.

1204: Constantinople sacked by Fourth Crusade.

1206: Ghengis Khan declares Mongol empire.

1206 - 1280 Albertus Magnus Dominican friar, preached the 8th crusade 1270. W

c.1210 Wolfram von Eschenbach Parzifal.

1214 - 1294 Roger Bacon Friar Bacon's Discoveries 1270 (1659 edition). W T

1215: Mongols conquer Persia.
1215: King John of England forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede.

1215 - 1294 Kublai Khan grandson on Ghenghis Khan and fifth ruler of the Mongol empire from 1260. W

1218: Mongols conquer China, enter Peking.
Yuan (Mongol) dynasty in China (to 1,368).

1220 - 1296 Johannes Campanus of Novara influential Latin edition of Euclid's Elements. M

1225: "Sumer is icumen in" sung as a round in England, six-part polyphony.

1225 -1274 Thomas Aquinas. Theologian who tried to reconcile Catholic doctrine with Aristotelian philosophy. W

1240: Mali empire founded in W. Africa. Benin Kingdom founded in S. Nigeria.

1,244: Massacre of the Cathars at Montsegur.

c.1245 - c.1288 Adam de la Halle, Trouvere, adapted sacred motet to secular texts.


1250 - 1310 Theodoric (aka Dietrich) von Freiberg, De Iride 1305, experimented with water-filled flasks to simulate primary and secondary rainbow formation by refraction and reflection in rainwater droplets. W S @

1254 - 1324 Marco Polo. Venetian merchant who wrote of his travels, and those of his father, in East Asia, including the China of Kublai Khan. W

d.c.1256 Johannes de Sacrobosco aka John of Halifax or Holywood. English scholar working in Paris. Author of widely used school textbooks: Algorismus on arithmetic, De Sphaera Mundi on the spherical geometry needed for astronomy. He also wrote on the quadrant and the calendar. C

1258: The Golden Age of Islam was ended by the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258.

c.1260 - 1320 Kamal Al-Din Al-Farisi Persian mathematician, student of Qutb Al-Din Al-Shitazi, who was a follower of Al-Tusi. Studied amicable numbers and factorisation. Applied conic sections to optics. Explained the rainbow colours in terms of refraction.

1265 - 1321 Dante Alighieri, Italian poet of the Divina Commedia 1307. W

1266 - 1337 Giotto artist

fl.1270 Peter Peregrinus aka Pierre Pelerin de Maricourt, Epistola de Magnete 1269, states the laws of attraction and repulsion of magnetic poles, describes the floating compass already in use and proposes a pivoted compass. W @

1277 - 1367 China: Yuan dynasty.

1287 - 1347 William of Ockham. Logician, philosophre, theologian and polemicist. S @

1291 - 1361 Philippe de Vitry, Ars Nova, composer describes developments in polyphony, including motets.


1,300: Ottoman empire founded in Turkey.
More polynesians, Maoris, arrive in New Zealand.

1300 - 1358 Jean [John] Buridan. Secular philosopher and logician, Summulae de dialectica [Compendium of Dialectic]. He developed the concept of impetus, the first step toward the modern concept of inertia. His name is most familiar through the thought experiment known as Buridan's ass. W S

c.1300 - 1377 Guillaume du Machaut poet and composer of sacred and secular motets, polyphonic Messe de Nostre Dame

1,309 (to 1,378) Avignon Papacy: Seven successive French popes resided in Avignon rather than Rome, under protection of the French kings. W

1313 - 1375 Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron 1358 a hundred romances told among a group of people sheltering from the plague. H

1323 - 1382 [TMB has c.1320] Nicolas [Nicole] Oresme. Studied at College of Navarre and became Dean of Rouen Cathedral. Anticipated Descartes in use of coordinates in geometry. Worked with fractional exponents and infinite series. He proved the divergence of the harmonic series. Considered arguments for the Earth's rotation. W M

c.1325 - 1397 Francesco Landini composer of ballata, dance-song.

1,325: Aztec capital Tenochtitlan founded in Mexico.

1,327: William of Ockham summoned to Avignon by Pope John XXII on charges of heresy.

c.1330 - c.1387 William Langland The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman allegorical poem. @ H

1336 - 1405 Timur aka Tam(b)erlaine, conqueror of central Asia. @

Ala'addin Tabrisi, shatranj player, promoter of 'Timur's game': an elaborate form of chess, including new pieces on an enlarged board, dabbaba, zebra. Also circular chess. @

1,337 - 1,453: Hundred Years War.

c.1343 - 1400 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales. @

1,347 - 1,350: The black death, bubonic plague, sweeps through Europe.


1364 - 1436 Qadi Zada, Treatise on the sine. M

1368 (to 1,643): China: Ming dynasty, succeeds Mongols. Building of the Great Wall.

c.1371 Sir John Mandeville author of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville a mixture of fact and fantasy, including the name of the author. W

1377 - 1446 Filippo Brunelleschi architect of the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. M

1,378: The Papal Schism. Following the Avignon popes (1,309) there were two rival claimants to the papacy, resulting in separate popes residing in Rome and Avignon (to 1,417). W

c.1380 - 1441 Jan van Eyck, artist, The Arnolfini Portrait A

1381 Wat Tyler one of the leaders of the Peasants' Revolt. H

c.1380 - 1429 Ghiyath al-Kashi, Treatise on the circumference 1424 computes 2pi to sixteen decimal places using inscribed and circumscribed polygons. M

1385/90? - 1453 John Dunstable composer. Used major and minor thirds.

1386 - 1466 Donatello sculptor. A

1393 - 1449 Ulugh Beg grandson of Timur, set up observatory at Samarkand and made accurate determinations, Zij-i Sultani 1437 catalogue of (992) stars. M

W @

1395 - 1455 Fra Giovanni aka Fra Angelico, painter. A


1400: N.Australia visited by Indonesian traders.

1397?/1400 - 1474 Guillaume Dufay; c.1400 - 1460 Gilles de Bins, aka Binchois; c.1410 - c.1497 Johannes Ockeghem; and c.1440 - 1521 Josquin Des Prez. Ccomposers of songs, motets and masses, the Franco-Flemish school under patronage of Duke Philip "the Good" of Burgundy.

c.1400 - 1468 Johannes Gutenberg , invention of printing with moveable type 1439, 42-line Bible 1455. W N @ @ @

1400-1430 perspective and drawing systems developed.

1404 - 1472 Leone Battista Alberti, De Pictura 1435 on laws of perspective. M

1412 - 1431 Joan of Arc H

1412 - 1492 Piero della Francesca, De prospectiva pingendi 'On perspective for painting'. Found a formula for volume of general tetrahedron in terms of its sides. M @

c.1415/1420 - 1492 William Caxton. English merchant who who took up the new tchnology of printing and published the first printed books in English from 1473, including an edition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales 1476. W @ @ @

1420 - 1498 Tomas de Torquemada, head of the Spanish Inquisition 1483, expelled Jews from Spain 1492. W

1422 oil paint, used by Van Eyck.


1432 - 1492 Giovanni Cibo aka Pope Innocent VIII, pope 1484, Summis desiderantes (papal bull against witchcraft) 1484, authorised Malleus Maleficarum 'The Hammer of the Witches' 1486 (by Henry Kramer 1430 – 1505 and Jakob Sprenger c. 1435 – 1495). W N F

1433 - 1499 Marsilio Ficino, Corpus Hermeticum 1471, translated Plato's complete works into Latin 1484. W

1436 - 1476 Johannes (Peter?) Muller von Konigsburg aka Regiomontanus, astronomer Alphonsine Tables, Ephemerides (1475-1506) 1473. C

1,438: Inca empire begins to expand.

1,445: Johannes Gutenberg invents the process of printing with moveable type. 1450 Gutenberg Textura typeface.

1445 - 1517 Luca Pacioli, Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita 1494, encyclopedic textbook explaining double-entry book-keeping and summarising the mathematics of Euclid, Boethius, Sacrobosco and Fibonacci, Divina proportione 1509, illustrated by da Vinci. M

1448: Portuguese fort built at Arguin in Mauritania, beginnings of European imperialism.


1451 - 1506 Christopher Columbus, navigator, first voyage 1492-3 to Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti). W

1452 - 1498 Girolamo Savonarola theocrat. H W

1452 - 1519 Leonardo da Vinci, artist and engineer. H A W M

1453: Byzantine empire extinguished with taking of Constantinople by Ottomans.

1455 - 1485: Wars of the Roses (York v. Lancaster) in England.

1455 - 1522 Johann Reuchlin, De Verbo Mirifico, De Arte Cabbalistica 1517. W

1463 - 1494 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man 1486, Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem 1495. W

1465 - 1526 Scipione del Ferro, first to solve cubic equations 1520. M

1466 - 1536 Desiderius Erasmus The Praise of Folly 1509 a satirical attack on superstition, Education of a Christian Prince 1516. H W N @ G @

c.1469 - 1525 Vasco da Gama, Portuguese navigator. W

1469 - 1527 Nicolo Machiavelli The Prince H G 1532.

1470 Nicolas Jenson, printer, typeface designer; Cloister Old Style.

1471 - 1528 Albrecht Durer, artist, Melencolia I 1514. A W

1473 - 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus, Commentariolus a brief account of his moving earth theory 1512, De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium 1543. C @


1475 - 1564 Michelangelo W

1476 - 1553 Girolamo Fracastoro physician, observed that comet tails point away from the sun.

1478 - 1535 Thomas More Utopia 1516. H @

1480 - 1521 Ferdinand Magellan navigator, whose crew were first Europeans to observe the irregular star clusters now called the Magellanic Clouds. W

1483 - 1520 Raphael, artist

1483 - 1546 Martin Luther religious reformer. W N

1485 - 1528 Graf, artist

1486 - 1535 Cornelius Agrippa occultist, Philosophy of Natural Magic, De Occulta Philosophia. W

1488 - 1576 Tiziano Vecellio aka Titian artist. A

c.1490 - 1545 John Taverner, composer.
c.1490 - 1562 Adrian Willaert, composer.

1,492: Christopher Columbus lands in the Bahamas and Cuba and discovers the "New World" of the American continent.

1494 - 1576 Hans Sachs, composer.

1495 - 1552 Peter Bienewitz aka Petrus Apianus or Peter Apian, wrote Cosmographicus liber 1524 on astronomy and navigation. He noted that comet tails are directed away from the Sun (as did Fracastoro, see 1476).

1497 - 1543 Holbein, painter.

1497 - 1560 Philipp Melanchthon theologian. W


1500 [? 1499] - 1557 Nicolo Fontana aka Tartaglia. Civil Enngineer, pioneer of ballistics. Solved cubic equations (independent of the earlier work of del Ferro), Quesiti et Inventioni 1546. M M

1501 - 1576 Girolamo [Jerome] Cardano, physician, mathematician, gambler, Ars Magna 1545 solution of cubic and quartic equations. Made use of imaginary numbers. M

1,501: Safavid dynasty founded in Persia.

c.1505 - 1568 Jacob Arcadelt, composer.
c.1505 - 1585 Thomas Tallis, composer.

1506 Aldus Manutius printer, Bembo typeface.

1509 - 1564 John Calvin, theologian Institutes of the Christian Religion 1536. W N

c.1510 - 1556 Jacobus Clemens, composer.
1510 - 1566 Antonio de Cobézon, composer.
c.1510 - 1585 Andrea Gabrieli, composer.

1511 - 1553 Michael Servetus physician who investigated circulation of blood, persecuted by Calvin, burnt at the stake for unitarian heresy. W

1512 - 1594 Mercator.

1512: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) publishes Commentariolus a brief account of his moving earth theory.

1514 - 1574 Georg Joachim Rheticus, Narratio Prima 1540 on Copernican system, Opus Palatinum de triangulis trigonometric tables, completed by Valentine Otho 1596. M

1514 - 1564 Andreas Vesalius, anatomist De Humani Corporis Fabrica 1543. W W

1514 - 1574 Bartolomeo Eustachi physician. W

1516 - 1565 Conrad Gesner, De Rerum Fossilium 1565, the first book about fossils. +

1,517: Martin Luther publishes his 95 theses against practices of the Roman church and sets off the Protestant reformation.

1519 camera obscura.

1,521: Aztec empire conquered by Cortes.

1,522; The Magellan/Cano expedition completes the first circumnavigation of the Earth via Cape Horn, the Pacific (named by Magellan) and the Philippines.

1522 - 1565 Lodovico Ferrari, solves the quartic equation 1540. M

1522 Inrice Arrighi, typeface and Italic writing.

1523 - 1562 Gabriel Falloppio physician, anatomist. W

1524 - 1580 Luis de Camoes aka Camoens Os Lusiadas, The Lusiads, epic poem on history and myths of Portugal. W


c.1525 - 1569 Pieter Breughel the Elder A

1525 - 1594 Giovanni da Palestrina, composer of motets, masses and madrigals.

1526 - 1572 Rafael Bombelli Algebra 1572, uses negative and complex numbers. M

1526 - c.1585 Takiyuddin aka Taqi al-Din. Ottoman Turkish astronomer who had an observatory built in Istanbul with instruments that could rival Tycho Brahe. Due to disagreements over the astrological interpretation of the 1577 comet, which was followed by an outbreak of plague, and claims by religious leaders that scientific studies were impious, the observatory was destroyed in 1579. @ @

1526 (to 1,857); Mughal empire founded in India.

1527 - 1598 Ortelius, artist

1527 - 1609 John Dee M.

1530 Garamond typeface.

1531 Petrus Apianus aka Peter Apian, noted comet tails are directed away from the Sun.

1532 - 1594 Orlande di Lassus, composer of motets.

1533: Inca empire conquered by Pizarro.

From this period onward, when Europeans began to expand into other regions of the world, and encountered other peoples in different stages of development, and with different languages and customs, making communication difficult, ideas of racial superiority developed, seeking to explain the poor state of some of the groups that were encountered, or to justify the actions of the empire building (imperialist) forces. A number of the writers cited subsequently exemplify the struggle of ideas that was involved.

1533 - 1592 Michel de Montaigne, essayist, wrote a famous essay "On Cannibals" W

1534: Henry VIII of England breaks with Rome and makes himself head of the Church of England.

1537 - 1619 Hieronymus Fabricius anatomist and surgeon, studied development of embryos, teacher of Willliam Harvey. W

c.1540 - 1596 Francis Drake, circumnavigation 1577-1580. @ @ @ W

1540 - 1603 William Gilbert De Magnete 1600. W @ @ @ @ @

1540 - 1610 Ludolf van Ceulen computed pi to 35 decimal places On The Circle 1596. M

1541 - 1614 El Greco painter. A

1,543: Copernicus publishes his work placing the Sun at the centre of the planetary system.

1543: Vesalius publishes his book on human anatomy.

1543 - 1623 William Byrd, composer.

1546 - 1595 Thomas Digges astronomer, observed Tycho's new star of 1572, wrote on the Copernican system within an infinite universe, 1576. M

1546 - 1601 Tycho Brahe; 1573 De Nova Stella reported on the 1572 supernova; 1588 De Mundi Aetherei used parallax to prove that a comet observed in 1577 was beyond the atmosphere; 1598-1602 Astronomiae instauratae ... describes the making of his precise (but non-telescopic) instruments and his observational methods, for more accurate observation of the planets, particularly Mars. C M

1547 - 1616 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, writer, Don Quixote 1605, 1615. @ W @ @


1548 - 1611 Tomas Luis de Victoria, composer.

1548 - 1600 Giordano Bruno; 1582 De Umbris Idearum [The Shadow of Ideas] and other works; 1584 De l'Infinito, Universo e Mondi [On the Infinite Universe and Worlds]; taught the Copernican system and imagined that there were planets round other stars; 1600 burnt at the stake for heresy in Rome on the orders of the Catholic Inquisition. @ W M @ N @ @


1550 - 1617 John Napier natural logarithms Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio 1614. M

1552 - 1616 Richard Hakluyt, historian, geographer, Divers Voyages 1582, Principal Navigations 1599. W @ Hakluyt Society

c.1555 - 1612 Giovanni Gabrieli, composer.

1557 - 1602 Carracci, artist

c.1557 - 1602 Thomas Morley, composer.

1,557; China allows Portuguese settlement in Macao.

1558 - 1617 Hendrick Goltzius artist. A

c.1560 - 1613 Don Carlo Gesualdo, composer.

1560 - 1621 Thomas Harriot M

1561 - 1633 Jacopo Peri, composer.

1561 - 1626 Francis Bacon, lawyer, philosopher, Novum Organum 1620. @ W I S @ @

1561 - 1626 Henry Briggs decimal logarithms Logarithmorum Chilias Prima 1617. M

1,562 - 1,598: French Wars if religion.

1562 - 1621 Jan Sweelinck, composer.
c.1562 - 1628 John Bull, composer.

1563 - 1626 John Dowland, composer, lute.

1564 - 1616 William Shakespeare dramatist and poet. @ @ (complete works).

1564 - 1617 David Fabricius discovers omicron Ceti to be a variable star, and with his son Johannes (see 1587), was one of the first astronomers to use a telescope, made in the Netherlands, and to observe sunspots. @

c.1564 - 1638 Pieter Breughel the Younger, painter. A

1564 - 1642 Galileo Galilei 1610 Sidereus Nuncius [Starry Messenger] first to report telescopic discoveries, including moons of Jupiter, but was unable to interpret the vague image he saw of the rings of Saturn; 1623 Il Saggiatore [The Assayer] which was about the nature of comets, a subject of much controversy at the time, and also about his ideas on scientific method. 1632 Dialogue on Two World Systems debates the Copernican system, and also about the laws of mechanics needed to answer the problems associated with a moving earth; 1633 This book led to Galileo's trial by the Inquisition and being threatened with torture and being placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. 1640 Dialogue on Two New Sciences, the sciences being kinematics and strength of materials. C C @ @

1565 - 1604 Filippino Lippi painter. A

1567 - 1643 Monteverdi composer, opera. A

1,571: Battle of Lepanto

1571 - 1610 Caravaggio painter. A

1571 - 1630 Johannes Kepler; 1596 Mysterium Cosmographicum trying to relate sizes of planetary orbits to nested platonic solids; 1600 inherits the observational data of Tycho Brahe; 1604 Astronomia Pars Optica; 1606 De Stella Nova, 1609 Astronomia Nova uses Tycho Brahe's data on Mars to deduce the first two laws of planetary motion, finally getting rid of the obsession with circles; 1611 Dioptrice, 1615 Nova Stereometria Dolorium uses primitive calculus to estimate volumes of revolution of wine barrels; 1619 Harmonice Mundi includes work on polyhedra, and the third law of planetary motion relating size and period of orbits; 1621 Epitome Astronomiae an influential textbook; 1627 the Rudolphine Tables of accurate astronomical data. These include predictions of the transits of Mercury and Venus across the Sun. M W C @ @ @ (Kepler's sphere-packing conjecture.)

1571 - 1638 Blaeu, artist

1572: St Bartholomew Day Massacre (24 August) of French Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants) in Paris.
A New Star is observed by Thomas Digges (1546 - 1595) and more famously by Tycho Brahe (1546 - 1601) who wrote about it in De Nova Stella 1573.

1573 - 1624 Simon Marius Astronomer. Named the four main satellies of Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto. Supported the Tychonic system rather than the Copernican, published Mundis Jovialis. Involved in priority disputes with Galileo. W @

1574 - 1660 William Oughtred influential teacher of mathematics Clavis Mathematicae 1631, slide rule. M


1576 - 1623 Thomas Weelkes, composer.

1577 comet observed by Tycho Brahe who used parallax to prove that it was beyond the Earth's atmosphere, in De Mundi Aetherei 1588. Destruction in 1579 of the observatory in Istanbul over the astrological interpretation of the 1577 comet, which was followed by an outbreak of plague. See al-Din 1526.

1577 - 1640 Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy 1621, literary psychology. W G

1577 - 1640 Peter Paul Rubens, painter. @ @ W

1578: Moroccans overcome Portuguese in NW Arica.

1578 - 1657 William Harvey, On the Motion of the Heart, On Generation W @ @ @ F

1579 - 1644 Jan Baptista van Helmont chemistry and alchemy. W @ @

1580 - 1626 Willebrord Snell mathematician whose name is often given to the law of refraction of light, though his work on this was not published until 1703 in Huyghens book Dioptrica and the law was known earlier, in tabular form, to Ibn Sahl 984. M W

1581 - 1638 Claude Gaspar Bachet Sieur de Meziriac, Problèmes plaisans et delectables 1612. Also published the Edition of Diophantus used by Fermat. M

1581 - 1656 James Ussher biblical scholar and chronologist, dated creation at −4004. W

1582 - 1652 Gregorio Allegri, composer, famous for Miserere performed at the Vatican.

1583 - 1625 Orlando Gibbons, composer.
1583 - 1643 Girolamo Frescobaldi, composer.

1585 - 1672 Heinrich Schütz, composer.

1587 - 1616 Johannes Fabricius with his father David (see 1564) was one of the first astronomers to use a telescope and to observe sunspots and suggest the sun rotates on its axis. @

1588: Defeat of Spanish Armada.

1588 - 1679 Thomas Hobbes, materialist philosopher, Leviathan 1651, political philosophy. W I @ M S G

1588 - 1648 Marin Mersenne Minim Friar, mathematician and organiser of scientific meetings and correspondence with many scholars, L'harmonie universelle on music and physics of sound 1627, studied 'Mersenne numbers' of the form 2^n - 1, particularly those that are prime, in which case n must also be a prime number. M W N @ @ @

1590 marbled papers first used

1592 - 1635 Callot, artist

1592 - 1655 Pierre Gassendi observed transit of Mercury 1831 predicted by Kepler, wrote on inertia De Motu 1642, advocated vegetarianism Letter to Van Helmont, revived Epicurean atomism and favoured empiricism as against Descartes pure rationalism Syntagma Philosophicum 1656. @ M W S N @ @

1596 - 1650 Rene Descartes, philosopher, mathematician, Discourse on Method @ @ I M W G

1598 - 1647 Bonaventura Cavalieri Geometria indivisibilibus 1635. M

1600: the Ottoman Empire controlled almost all the Middle East, the Ming Dynasty ruled China, and the Mughal Empire held sway over India. By contrast, Europe was divided into a number of warring states.