We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
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Howard Chandler Christy, Signing of the Constitution, Architect of the Capitol, House wing, east stairway
Lesson 3 Biographies

Roger Bacon (1214-1294) Bacon was an English empirical philosopher who focused on sensation as the primary method of acquiring knowledge. One of first advocates of modern scientific method to study the world, he also urged theologians to study science. He advocated reading the Bible and other texts in original languages.

John Calvin (1509-1564) Calvin was a French Protestant theologian who also trained as lawyer. He was a devout Catholic before converting to Protestantism sometime between 1528 and 1533. Calvin published Institution Christianae Religionis in 1536 (republished as Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1541) as an introductory textbook of Protestant faith. He attacked the teachings of Roman Catholicism.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) A Polish astronomer and mathematician, Copernicus advocated the view that Earth rotates on an axis and makes a yearly revolution around a stationary sun. This view marked the beginning of the scientific revolution. The Catholic Church rejected his scientific theories.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) This French mathematician, who invented analytic geometry, was also a scientist and philosopher–he was considered to be the father of modern philosophy. Descartes sought to discover truth through systematic doubt. He believed that if one were "a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life to doubt, as far as possible, all things." Descartes gave us the famous Latin phrase, "cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am).

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) The third monarch to follow Henry VIII, she was his daughter and re-established the Protestant church in England after her half-sister Mary had taken the kingdom back to Catholicism. Elizabeth was a long-lived and immensely popular monarch, who sought and took advice to make England one of the most prosperous and powerful countries in the world. Science and culture also flourished during her reign.

Galilei Galileo (1564-1642) Galileo was a Tuscan mathematician, astronomer, and physicist who championed Copernicus and his view that Earth revolves around the sun. His empirical approach to science broke tradition with Aristotle. Albert Einstein called him the "father of modern science." Galileo spent his later years under house arrest on orders of the Italian Inquisition, a Catholic Church tribunal created to protect the church from heresy.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) The second monarch of the house of Tudor, Henry severed the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and established the king as head of the Church of England. Famous for six marriages, Henry made the royal court a center of scholarly and musical innovation.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher of materialism, fled to France during English civil war (1642-1651, which pitted Parliament against the Crown), where he wrote Leviathan. This book argued that humans without government live in a "state of nature," which is a "state of war" of against all. Life in such conditions is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Thus in a state of nature all fear violent death, and violent death is what people fear most. To avoid violent death, they agree to set up a state with strict authority and the power to protect life. People agree to leave this state of nature through "social contract" and to give all power to the Leviathan state, which Hobbes characterized as a "mortal god." Hobbes was accused of atheism for the views he expressed in Leviathan, where Hobbes pilloried various theological ideas. The English Parliament asserted that Leviathan helped cause the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. The book was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Catholic Church because it undermined the theory of divine right of kings.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) A German mathematician and astronomer, Kepler believed that God created the world according to a plan knowable through natural reason. He formulated theories of planetary motion and "laws" built on Copernicus's theories and laid the foundation for Newton's theory of gravity in the next century. Kepler served as imperial mathematician to Emperor Rudolph II and was allowed to practice the Lutheran faith.

John Locke (1632-1704) John Locke, a physician and philosopher, worked with famous scientists, including Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. In contrast to Hobbes, Locke used state of nature and social contract theory to justify limited government and the preservation of individual rights, particularly life, liberty, and property. Locke is sometimes called "America's philosopher" because his Second Treatise of Government (1690) was widely read by the colonists and important ideas found in it (as well as in works of English republican writers) are found in the Declaration of Independence, especially his theories of natural rights and his defense of violent revolution after "a long train of abuses" of power by rulers. Two verbatim phrases of Locke's are found in the Declaration.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) A German monk and theologian considered to be founder of Protestantism, Luther argued that the Bible, not the pope, was the source of all religious authority and that individuals can attain salvation through faith alone, unmediated by the church. Luther translated the Bible into vernacular German, making it accessible to laypeople. He also wrote hymns that developed the tradition of congregational singing and set the pattern for Protestant clerical marriage.

Niccolo di Machiavelli (1469-1527) Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian political philosopher and diplomat. A central figure in the political Renaissance, he wrote The Prince and discourses on Livy. He is most famous for The Prince, which describes how political leaders can get, keep, and expand political power. Machiavelli believed that political ends justify whatever means—including cruelty—are required to achieve them. He famously observed that it is safer for a prince to be feared than loved.

James Madison (1751-1836) The "Father of the Constitution" was born to a wealthy Virginia family. He was taught at home and in private schools, then graduated from the College of New Jersey. While deciding whether to become a lawyer or minister, Madison became involved in the revolutionary cause, thereby entering state and local politics. His poor health kept him from serving in the military. In 1780, Madison was chosen to serve in the Continental Congress, where he played a major role. He was one of the most influential voices calling for a constitutional convention. He came to the Philadelphia Convention with a plan for the new government, took extensive notes on the proceedings, spoke more than 150 times, and worked tirelessly on various committees. As one of the authors of The Federalist, Madison was also a key figure in the battle for ratification. Following the convention, Madison served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, helping to frame the Bill of Rights and organize the executive department. Under Jefferson, Madison served as secretary of state. He then succeeded Jefferson as president. In retirement, Madison continued to speak out on public issues.

Montesquieu (1689-1755) (Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu) Montesquieu was a French lawyer, nobleman, author, and political philosopher. He is recognized as one of greatest thinkers of the Enlightenment. Montesquieu first gained fame for a satire, The Persian Letters, in 1721, which pointed out the absurdities of modern European, especially French, life. He also published Considerations of the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and of their Decline (anonymously) in 1734. His masterpiece, The Spirit of the Laws (1748), greatly influenced political thought in Europe and America and was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by Catholic Church because of its "liberal" views.

Thomas More (1478-1534) More was an English barrister and politician who was imprisoned for advocating a decrease in proposed appropriations for King Henry VII. He later helped King Henry VIII repudiate Martin Luther. As speaker of House of Commons he also helped establish the parliamentary privilege of free speech. Convicted of treason in 1534 for failing to recognize King Henry VIII as head of Church of England, More was imprisoned again and then beheaded. He was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1886 and declared a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1935. More coined the word utopia for his controversial novel of that title, published in 1516.

Isaac Newton (1643-1727) An English mathematician and physicist, Newton was one of greatest thinkers of his or any generation. He was influenced by Descartes, laid the foundation for differential and integral calculus, and is considered the founder of modern physical science. His most notable contributions were in optics and universal gravitation, although he did not invent this idea. Newton opposed attempts by King James II to make universities Catholic institutions.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) A Scottish economist who popularized the theory that rational economic self-interest in a free market leads to overall economic well-being. Smith's early works focused on ethics and charity, which Smith argued were part of self-interest. In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Smith wrote, "Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only." Smith also argued that the American colonies were too expensive for the British Empire to keep.

Lesson 3      What Historical Developments Influenced Modern Ideas of Individual Rights?
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