Before the Renaissance, European arts and sciences were under the domain of the Church and ruled by a worldview that held that the earth was flat and the sun and other planets revolved around it. Nature and society operated under a divine hierarchy ordered by God.
Application of classical mathematics, such as algebra and geometry, cost this view of the universe much of its credibility, so that the beginning of modern mathematics led to a new rule of rational ordering.
The invention of the compass made navigation possible. Sailors no longer needed to keep their ships within sight of Land. Consequently, they found out that the world was not only round, it was much larger and more diversely populated than had ever been imagined. Through these travels gunpowder was discovered, and its use immediately changed the whole nature of warfare. Accurate telescopes gave scientists another view of the planets in relation to the sun, enaling them to lay the foundaions of modern astronomy.
Exactly what impact these revolutionary discoveries and inventions had on the European culture is the subject of a two-day symposium Friday and Saturday, jointly sposored by the Folger Library and the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology. "Science and the Arts in the Renaissance" tries to deal with the then-innovative concepts of measurement, observation, experiment and classification, and how these changed the Europeans' way of examining themselves and the world around them.
The improved technology, for example, enabled the noted 16th-century English architect/designer Inigo Jones to produce masques (elaborate court entertainments with poetry, music, lavish costumes and scenery) that used machines to create the illusion of players ascending to heaven, falling to hell or being surrounded by waves at sea.
Leonardo da Vinci used the new concept of perspective, which added a realistic visual depth to his paintings. As a scientist, his grounding in human anatomy and medicine enabled him to apply purely physical and technological disvoveries to his art. An illustration of a human showed intricate details of muscular and skeletal composition. His drawings were considered to be so realistic that they were considered to be so realistic that they were used by scientists as substitutes for real specimens.
SCIENCRE IN THE ARTS AND RENAISSANCE: Friday at Folger Library, 201 E. Capitol St.; Saturday at Museum of History and Technology, 14th and Constitution. Programs begin at 9 a.m. Call 546-8877.