Chapter: 7

From Galileo and Newton to
Communication at the Speed of Light

The Consequences of Intellectual Integration 

“Isaac Newton was placed by fate at a turning point
in the world’s intellectual development.”—Albert Einstein


This chapter focuses on several revolutionary changes in human society brought about not by violent overthrow of a prior social order, but rather by new knowledge that unified and integrated prior knowledge and experience, thereby fostering a change in attitudes—a paradigm shift—that eventually made prior attitudes obsolete forever.

Starting in the 17th century there have been four such revolutions, all interconnected:

  • The Newtonian Revolution
  • The Liberal Revolution
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The American Revolution

Isaac Newton showed that the universe is comprehensible, that everything happens according to natural laws that we can understand. He thereby discredited the belief in supernatural causation of natural phenomena, such as comets. However, in the words of Albert Einstein, Newton “. . . is yet a more significant figure than his own [genius] makes him, since he was placed by fate at a turning point in the world’s intellectual development.”

We enjoy in our daily lives the fruits of the Newtonian scientific revolution. One example among many is electronic communication at the speed of light. Today, someone can  witness televised events taking place half way around the world as they occur, or speak by mobile telephone to people in almost every part of the world.

There is an intellectual revolution that is even more profound than the Newtonian revolution: the Liberal Revolution—an attitude favoring ever greater human freedom—that preceded and includes the Newtonian revolution. The Liberal Revolution is ongoing. It points the way to the ultimate total freedom to which mankind can aspire.

The Industrial Revolution is an outgrowth of the Newtonian and Liberal Revolutions. The Industrial Revolution, which is also ongoing, has brought about enormous actual or potential improvements in the quality of life for everybody, from the poorest to the richest. Much of the world’s population has realized these improvements in the quality of life, which are continuing and spreading to more and more cultures. However, such benefits have largely been denied to people living in certain backward or politically repressed parts of the earth. For over a billion people, such improvements in life remain only potential.

Advances in biological science in the flow-stream of the Newtonian revolution have fostered once unimaginable improvement in human health by greatly reducing infant mortality and prolonging healthy life for many people far beyond the expectations of prior eras.

Since 1776 the American Revolution has undermined the entire concept of monarchy and led to a transition to political democracy in the English-speaking countries, much of Europe, and parts of Asia, Latin American and Africa.

However, politics no matter what form it has taken—monarchy, democracy, fascism, socialism and the primitive politicized capitalism of recent experience—has failed to nurture, protect and reward those people whose intellectual creativity, discoveries and technological innovations have most benefited mankind and improved the human condition.

The explicit and implicit principles of the American Revolution point the way to a better future with a new kind of democracy based upon individual self rule, instead of the will of a politically manipulated majority. In this vision of the future, proprietary self-government would supersede politics by providing reliable, non-coercive protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. First and foremost this new form of self-government would protect intellectual property and those who generate it. After all, innovators are the source of all progress towards a humane, peaceful, healthy and prosperous society.


In the lexicon of Andrew Galambos, the word “revolution” is reserved for a single meaning, as are all words used in science. In Galambos’ lectures the word revolution means “turning around,” a usage derived from the Latin word “revolutio.” Thus, in physics and astronomy one says that the earth revolves around its axis and also revolves around the sun.

In human affairs people use the word revolution to mean the forcible overthrow of a state or social order. Galambos rejects that meaning on the ground that forcible overthrow of a state accomplishes nothing new, no real turning around. Forcible overthrow of a pre-existing social order always substitutes one form of organized coercion for another. For example, the Russian “Revolution” of 1917 overthrew the autocratic monarchy of czarist Russia and replaced it with an even more repressive and violent tyranny instituted by the dictatorship of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

This chapter deals with four revolutions that in Galambos’ view accomplished something new and important, a true turning around of human understanding and attitudes:

  • The Newtonian Revolution
  • The Liberal Revolution
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The American Revolution

Galambos asserts that the Newtonian Revolution is the source of the industrial and American revolutions, and is related to and an important part of the Liberal Revolution. In contradistinction, Galambos claims that the French “Revolution,” like the Russian “Revolution” was not a revolution at all since it involved no turning around or away from political coercion, but only the replacement of one form of political coercion with another.

The Newtonian Revolution in science and technology:
From Galileo and Newton to communication at the speed of light

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) is the person whom Galambos calls “the Anchor Point in History.” Newton’s main accomplishment is the integration of physical science. Newton put together, added up, all of the components of previous knowledge of physical science into a single, intellectual structure that allowed an explanation of everything that was then knowable about the physical universe.

Before Newton physics was not a single subject; it was many different subjects, which seemingly had no correlation with each other.

As a young man of 22, Isaac Newton started developing his integration of the physical sciences. At the time it was known already that the force of gravity existed, that apples fall from trees and that the moon is the constant companion of planet earth.

According to Newton, his decisive insight occurred when he saw an apple fall from a tree and realized that the apple was pulled toward the earth by the same force that kept the moon in orbit around the earth and the earth in orbit around the sun, and thus found the key to his grand synthesis. Newton also explained that the action of ocean tides was due to the gravitational pull of the sun, moon and earth.

What was unique about Newton was the way he applied mathematics to develop knowledge of the physical world. He created mathematical equations that described both the moon’s orbit and the trajectory of an object falling to earth. Thus, he showed that both celestial bodies and the physical objects of every day life acted the way that they did for the same reason. Newton’s mathematical laws, e.g., his Laws of Motion and his Law of Gravitation are universal.

Because the mathematics of the day was inadequate to deal with objects in motion, Newton invented a new mathematics, the calculus—the greatest advance ever in mathematics—to explain the relative actions of moving objects. Newton also invented the reflecting telescope and in working with lenses for his telescope he made important discoveries about light and color. Newton made many of these profound discoveries between 1665 and 1667, while staying at home from Cambridge University to avoid the plague. At the time, Newton was 22 to 24 years of age but he didn’t publish his theory of gravitation until 1687 when he was 44.

Newton had intellectual antecedents, scientists whose ideas provided the basis for Newton’s integration of physical science. In 1543, at a time when most people believed that the earth is the center of the universe, Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543) a Polish physician, astronomer and consultant to kings and princes, published a book setting forth his heliocentric hypothesis—that the sun is at the center of the universe. Newton seems to have known that the Greek scientists Archimedes and Aristarchus also advocated the idea of a sun-centered universe nearly 2000 years before Copernicus.

[Comment: From the time of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) Greek astronomers believed the earth was spherical because when the Sun, Earth and Moon come nearly into line, with the Earth between the Sun and Moon, the  shadow cast by the Earth on the Moon is invariably seen to be circular which would not be the case on all occasions unless the Earth were spherical; and about 230 B.C. Eratosthenes, a Greek mathematician, geographer, and astronomer made a remarkably accurate estimate of the diameter of the earth, using principles of trigonometry. 1]

The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), working before the invention of the telescope, compiled an enormous amount of observational data about the movements of the planets. Brahe’s work  proved itself useful in corroborating the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis and undermining the still prevalent earth-centered world view. Using Brahe’s accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) discovered that the orbits of planets around the sun are elliptical, rather than being circular as Copernicus thought.

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is credited with being the creator of the modern scientific method. On hearing of the invention of the telescope in the Netherlands in 1608 (by Hans Lippershey) Galileo built his own powerful telescope and began to examine the stars and planets in the night sky at Padua, Italy.  With his new telescope Galileo observed many objects that humans had never seen before. For example, he discovered that there were far more stars than had been visible with just the naked eye; he discovered four satellites next to the planet Jupiter; and he noticed that the moon’s surface was not smooth. To Galileo, these findings falsified the orthodox earth-centered model of the universe. Galileo published the results of these astronomical investigations in his book The Starry Messenger (1610), the first scientific treatise based on observations made through a telescope. Galileo also developed laws of motion that anticipated Isaac Newton’s First and Second Laws of Motion.

René Descartes (1596-1650), a great philosopher, physicist and mathematician, unified geometry and algebra into a single subject, now known as analytic geometry, which was an important progenitor of the calculus.

Galambos illustrates the impact of the Newtonian integration of science with the accompanying graph entitled “The Anchor Point of History.” In the graph “N “stands for Newton, “D” for Descartes, “G” for Galileo, “M” for James Clerk Maxwell and “E” for Albert Einstein. The graph is symbolic, not representational, so only a few great scientists are represented. The graph illustrates that Newton integrated a substantial amount of prior knowledge, and that his integration stimulated an outpouring of further scientific discoveries that is still ongoing.

Newton acknowledged his intellectual antecedents, saying: “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Galambos’ view is that all physics after Newton is Newtonian because it is based on the scientific method as developed by Newton. Newton’s work is more than an advance in science. It is a philosophical revolution of the highest magnitude that is far deeper than its explanation of  the movement of the planets. Newton showed that the universe is comprehensible; that everything happens in accordance with the laws of nature.

According to Galambos, since Newton every advance in the history of either physical or biological science has evolved from Newton’s achievement and the Newtonian intellectual structure. Thus, in Galambos’ view quantum physics and relativity physics are not non-Newtonian, but are rather post-Newtonian developments based on the scientific method that Isaac Newton brought to its present degree of comprehension and utilization.

It was Newton’s friend, English astronomer and polymath Edmond Halley (1656-1742) who encouraged Newton to write his famous book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687),commonly known as The Principia Mathematica or Principia as the work is usually called for short after its original Latin title. Halley financed publication of the Principia. 

Newton showed that the universe is comprehensible, that everything happens according to natural laws that human beings could understand. He thereby discredited the belief in supernatural causation of natural phenomena, such as comets. In the play Julius Caesar byWilliam Shakespeare (1554-1616), on the day of Caesar’s assassination his wife warns that she has seen a prophecy of death signaled by a comet, saying that

“When beggars die there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

Using Newton’s theory, Halley calculated the orbit of a comet that had appeared in 1683 and predicted that it would return in 1758. That comet did return in 1758 and has ever since been known as Halley’s Comet. The return of Halley’s Comet at the exact time Halley had predicted was a sensational event. People began to believe that the universe truly is comprehensible.

The English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was sufficiently moved by Newton’s accomplishments to write the famous epitaph:

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was light.”

The magnitude and grandeur of Newton’s achievement in the eyes of his scientific successors was expressed by the mathematician and astronomer Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) who said that

“Newton was the greatest genius that ever existed and the most fortunate,
for we cannot find more than once a system of the world to establish.”

Inspired by the brilliant success of Newton’s ideas and methods in explaining terrestrial and celestial phenomena, later scientists discovered new physical laws explaining the actions of solids, liquids, gases and heat. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the success of what Newton called his “System of the World,” fostered the attitude that the universe was a huge mechanical system running according to natural laws that human beings could understand and apply to make their lives better.

We enjoy in our daily lives the fruits of the Newtonian scientific revolution in the form of electronic communication at the speed of light. For example, someone in California can  witness a sporting event taking place half way around the world, as it is going on, such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China; and thanks to wireless telephone technology we can speak by mobile phone to someone else in many parts of the world.

Hans Christian Orsted

Hans Christian Orsted

Wireless electronic communications at the speed of light originated in a series of scientific discoveries and technological innovations developed between 1820 and 1936. In 1820 Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) observed a relationship between electricity and magnetism.

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday

In 1830-1831 Joseph Henry (1797-1878) and Michael Faraday (1797-1861) developed independently the theory of electromagnetic induction—that an electric current could be produced in a conductor, such as copper wire, moving through a magnetic field.

James Clerk Maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell

In 1861-62, the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), one of the greatest scientific geniuses of all time, built upon the discoveries of Henry and Faraday to develop his Theory of Electromagnetic Wave Propagation. Maxwell created a set of four mathematical equations (Maxwell’s equations) that described electromagnetic waves. He discovered that electromagnetic waves traveled at the speed of light. From this insight Maxwell reasoned that light itself is an electromagnetic wave. Scientists have since discovered a huge spectrum of electromagnetic waves, including radio waves and X-rays, all of which were unknown  until Maxwell published his work.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

Heinrich Hertz (1857-1894) clarified and expanded Maxwell’s laws of electromagnetic wave propagation and in 1888 demonstrated the existence of the electromagnetic waves that Maxwell had predicted, by sending an electromagnetic signal across his laboratory.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

In 1896 Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) demonstrated wireless radio communication; and in 1902 Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) produced a wireless radio wave that spanned the Atlantic Ocean.

Robert H. Goddard

Robert H. Goddard

During the first half of the 20th century, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), Hermann Oberth (1894-1989) and American physicist and inventor Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945) innovated important technologies for rocket science that made possible today’s rocket technology. Their work was based on Newton’s Laws of Motion and Gravitation.

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

The innovations in rocket science of these three men are basic and indispensable to the use of man-made satellites orbiting our planet as relay stations for wireless transmission of electromagnetic communication.

In 1936 Alan Turing (1912-1954) created one of the foundations of computer science by innovating mathematical  concepts that are the basis for  computer technology and by innovations known as The Turing Machine.  Prior to and during WW II he  also led the way in British intelligence decoding German Enigma encryption of military messages. During the war he invented a code decryption machine that is considered the first programmable general purpose digital computer. His work has been credited with shortening the war against Nazi Germany by two or more years.

The Liberal Revolution

There is an intellectual revolution that is even more profound than the Newtonian Revolution. It is the Liberal Revolution. The Liberal Revolution preceded Newton. It includes the Newtonian Revolution and broadens into a transformation of society from the concept of a coercion-based state to the limited-state, free-enterprise economics of Austrian-born economists such as Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and F. A. Hayek 1899-1982) and ultimately Andrew J. Galambos’ concept of non-coercive, competing, proprietary governments as a desirable replacement for the political state.

The Latin word “liber,” meaning free, is the root of the word “liberal.” The original usage of the world “liberal” stems from the Age of Enlightenment (1650 to the early 19th century). The word liberal was used starting in the 19th century to describe people who opposed monarchy and believed in the principles manifested in the French phrase “laissez faire, laissez passer,” meaning leave people alone, let them do as they wish. In politics, the British Liberal Party was the party, originally called the Whig Party, that opposed monarchy as contrasted with the English conservative party known as the Tories who were loyal supporters of the monarchy.

Newton had a profound influence in 18th century France due in large part to the French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher Voltaire (1694-1788), famous for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a self-avowed disciple of Isaac Newton and his works, so much so that he devoted a third of his Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733) to explicating Newtonian Science. In the rest of that book, Voltaire championed the new freedom he discovered during a lengthy visit to England.

After returning from England to France, Voltaire encouraged his lover, Emilie de Breteuil, la marquise du Chatelet, to translate Newton’s Principia into French. Her work became the first translation of Principia into a language other than English and remains to this day the standard French version.

Laissez faire is also the classic liberal philosophy of  the famous economic treatise The Wealth of Nations (1776) by the Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723-1790). Smith advanced the idea that society benefits when individuals are let alone to pursue their own interests in market economies characterized by free enterprise and free trade.

The Industrial Revolution as a Newtonian development

Thee hundred years ago, at the beginning of the 18th century, transportation, lighting and heating were little different than 3,000 years ago.

  • To go from one place to another, most people walked. Only a few could afford to travel on horse back, and even fewer in a horse-drawn carriage.
  • To provide light when it was dark and heat when it was cold, people burned something, such as wood, candles, or oil in lamps. Coal became gradually a source for home heating starting only about 500 years ago.

Before the Industrial Revolution the only source of power other than human muscle power was the domestication of draft animals and usage of water wheels and windmills. The essential characteristic of the Industrial Revolution was the supplanting of the muscle power of human beings and draft animals by the machine power of engines driven by steam, then petroleum, later by electricity and most recently by electricity generated by atomic power, via turbines driven by conversion of water to steam through heat generated by nuclear fission.

Following the advent of the Industrial Revolution in 18th century England, transportation evolved with the development of railroads carrying trains driven by coal-burning steam engines, and later by petroleum powered locomotives. The development of the internal combustion engine brought automobiles, motor-powered ships, and ultimately airplanes–after invention of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright. Over the same time  lighting progressed from candles to lamps lit by kerosene (a petroleum product), then to clean, inexpensive electric lighting.

The industrialization that first took off in 18th century England was rooted in the study of mechanics associated with the Newtonian cosmological view that the entire universe was a comprehensible machine.

Newton proved that motions in the universe and motions on earth were explained by the same principles. The Newtonian cosmology of the universe as a giant clockwork machine promoted a drive to mechanize human activities that, in turn, stimulated the development of new machinery and new methods of mass production.

In 18th century Britain, mechanistic science was taught and discussed among scientists, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs who explored the ways in which this knowledge could be applied to useful production.

In England, the Industrial Revolution fostered an extensive communication between people of science and people of industry. Entrepreneurs began to appreciate the value  of applying Newtonian science to their enterprises. Thus there sprang up a new breed of innovators and entrepreneurs who utilized Newtonian ideas to work in industrial applications ranging from James Watt’s steam engine of 1760 to steam-powered railway locomotives and manufacturing equipment.

The Serbian Nikola Tesla working in America brought this technological evolution to an entirely new level when he invented the first practical electric motor in 1888 and a decade later conceived the now standard method of alternating current (AC) electrical distribution.

Agriculture and the Newtonian Scientific Revolution

In those parts of the world where most of the people are employed in agriculture, food is in short supply even today. In the U.S. around 1870 more than 70% of the population lived on farms or in small towns in rural areas. However, the ongoing Industrial Revolution transformed American agriculture through the introduction of new farm machinery and scientific methods of cultivation.

The change in American agriculture was so thoroughgoing that by the beginning of the 21st century less than 3% of the U.S. population worked in agriculture but produced such abundance that today agricultural products are a significant part of America’s exports. In America’s mechanized and industrialized agriculture 5 million tractors and giant computerized harvesters have replaced horses, mules and manual labor. Fertilizers, hybrid seeds, crop rotation and other innovations have made American agriculture the most productive in the world.

The Industrial Revolution and the rising standard of living

The Industrial Revolution transformed the quality of life for everybody, including the poor. By the mid-nineteenth century such developments as coal-fired heating in stoves, window glass, kerosene lamps, and a plethora of new, affordable products led to an unprecedented rise in the standard of life and health.

New methods of mass production and distribution were the source of these benefits. By the standards of advanced countries in the 21st century, the factories of the early Industrial Revolution were horrid places to work. However, they were  no worse than the preceding working conditions. Workshops and mines had been dank, crowded and polluting long before the Industrial Revolution. Two hundred and fifty years of technological advance since James Watt’s first steam engine have made factories far cleaner, safer, and easier places in which to work thanks to advances in technology.

Advances in biological science

Advances in biological science are also in the flow-stream of the Newtonian revolution. Newton’s development of the scientific method is the basic framework on which all progress in the life sciences is founded.

Infant mortality was extremely high as recently as the mid-19th century. For example, of the seven children of the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) only two survived infancy. For most of the 18th century in the U.S. and Britain, the infant mortality rate was about 500 out of every 1,000 births. Around one-half of all infants died before their first birthday in the two most advanced countries in the world. Today in the U.S. and Great Britain, the infant mortality rate has been reduced to about seven per 1,000 births.

Accordingly, it is fair to say that but for Newtonian science and post-Newtonian developments in biological and medical science, most people alive today, even in America, would not exist. They would not have survived infancy.

The American Revolution

The American Revolution is a non-violent transformation in people’s attitudes toward government whose genesis lies in the Newtonian revolution. The basic ideas of the American Revolution can be traced directly from Isaac Newton to John Locke to Thomas Paine. They are expressed clearly and succinctly in the American Declaration of Independence.

John Locke (1632-1704) read Newton’s Principia in Holland shortly after it was published in 1687. After his return to England in 1688 Locke cultivated a friendship with Newton. Locke developed a view of human society based on the concepts of the scientific method set forth by Newton. First he examined the nature of the individual human being, and then tried to apply the principles of human nature to economic and political problems.

Locke took as a given that human actions are motivated by self interest. He asserted that just as there are laws of nature that govern inanimate objects, there are also laws of nature governing human action. He stated that the proper function of government was not to impose laws on the people, but rather to discover the natural laws of human interaction and apply them to develop effective forms of  government. According to Locke, these natural laws of human interaction included the equal freedom and equal standing of all individuals before the law and, most importantly, the right to property which he defined as the fruits of one’s labor. In Locke’s view the purpose of government was to protect private property. Locke’s ideals of individualism, property rights, free markets, and representative government are set forth in his Two Treatises of Government (1689).

Voltaire was greatly influenced by John Locke, calling him “the wise Locke.” The fundamental  value system of the Age of Enlightenment derived in large part from Locke’s ideas.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) came of age in the intellectual ferment of London of the late 1750s, where he was a serious student of Newtonian science.  Shortly after Paine came to America, in 1774, he wrote a 46-page pamphlet entitled Common Sense, first published on January 10, 1776, that became the most influential essay in the history of America.

In Common Sense Paine argued not only that the American colonies of Britain should separate from Britain, but also that America should reject rule by monarchy and develop a new form of government based on the principle of individual self rule. Common Sense caused a true revolution in attitudes in America. Before its publication almost all Americans opposed separation from Britain, notwithstanding the armed conflict with Britain that had been going on since April 1775. After the publication of Common Sense pro-independence sentiment grew rapidly in America. The pamphlet was an immediate sensation. First published in January 1776, by the end of the year between 150,000 and 250,000 copies had been sold at a time when America’s population was 3 million—equivalent to a first-year sale of 20 million today.

The ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence are the ideas of Common Sense. The two have so much in common that some historians have claimed that either Paine was the secret author of the Declaration of Independence or that his friend Thomas Jefferson copied him so thoroughly that it amounted to the same thing. 2 Galambos  taught that Paine was the author of the Declaration of Independence, basing this position in large part on facts and analysis set forth in the book Thomas Paine: Author of the Declaration of Independence (1947) by Joseph Lewis.

A perceptive observer, John W. Deming pointed out to the author of this website that in Paine’s essay entitled “African Slavery in America,” certain passages mirror almost word for word the original paragraph denouncing and abjuring slavery in America in the Declaration of Independence. That appears to be convincing proof that clinches Paine’s authorship of the Declaration. Paine’s essay in which he urges emancipation is available at the following link:

In contrast to Paine, Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder. Jefferson did not even provide in his will for freeing his slaves, unlike slaveholder George Washington whose last will and testament freed his slaves.

Some negative consequences of the American Revolution are discussed in greater detail in the Commentary below, and in three subsequent chapters, entitled:

  • Political Democracy in America
  • Wars of the United States of America
  • Monopolies: Coercive and Non-Coercive

The French Revolution

The French revolution started out as a social revolution modeled on the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were granted honorary French citizenship. Paine, who was an ideological hero to the leaders of the rebellion, was elected as deputy from Pas-de-Calais to the National Assembly in Paris.

However, the uprising soon went off the path to liberty and turned into a bloodthirsty disaster because conditions in France were vastly different from America. The King of France was in France, while the British king was far away from America, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. France also had a class of landed nobles, and the Catholic Church, who together controlled much of the land of France, and defended fiercely their privileged position. America had no such class of landed aristocracy or an entrenched church with large landholdings.

The French Revolution evolved into political chaos when a radical element, the Jacobins,  seized power and proceeded to execute King Louis XVI, much of the nobility, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church,  thousands of members of the political opposition and tens of thousands of ordinary people. During the reign of terror (1793-1794), radical zealots among the Jacobins denounced thousands of citizens as enemies of the revolution, sentenced them without trial and sent them immediately to death by the guillotine, by drowning or mob violence. “The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine (2,639 in Paris), and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.” 3

A leader of the Jacobins, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, justified the reign of terror by saying that “the republic consists in the extermination of everything that opposes it.” 4 The reign of terror in the French Revolution became the model for seizure and maintenance of power in the Russian and Chinese revolutions of the twentieth century, wherein the revolutionaries deliberately terrorized all of Russia and China for decades to make sure they would hold onto their newly acquired power.

The reign of terror claimed the life of the great chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was guillotined in 1794 in Paris despite his efforts to avoid political activity. The Jacobins would have guillotined the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American revolution, who escaped by fleeing for his life, and Thomas Paine who came to France as a hero of the Revolution, and then was condemned to death for opposing the death penalty in general, and the execution of King Louis XVI in particular. Paine narrowly escaped the guillotine by an oversight of his jailers the night before his scheduled execution which was to occur on July 25, 1794. 5

In the rest of Europe, monarchies and the still powerful Catholic Church grew alarmed at the revolutionary fervor and began organizing armed resistance. In the name of defending the French Revolution,  Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in 1799, became Emperor in 1802, and then launched ten years of warfare throughout Europe in which out of the French population of 29 million, nearly two million French lost their lives. The Marquis de LaFayette (1757-1834), famed for his invaluable help to America during the War for Independence, asserted that three million of the French died a bloody death in the Napoleonic wars, which are estimated to have caused around six million total deaths, military and civilian, in Europe. 6

Subsequently, instead of a stable constitutional republic, The French Revolution spawned political instability. During the 19th century France had two republics, two kings, two emperors, and intermittent bloody rebellions including the infamous Marxist Paris Commune of 1870.

In contrast, once the America colonists had won independence, monarchy was finished in America–and throughout the western hemisphere. The large numbers of people who had remained loyal to the British king even during the War for Independence either left for Canada or Britain or adapted peacefully to the new reality. Enlightened political leadership in America established a political democracy of initially limited powers that permitted the country to develop rapidly with a minimal amount of internal strife until the Civil War.

Ultimate future consequences of the American Revolution: a social structure that eliminates war and protects and rewards intellectual property

The American Revolution was an ideological revolution that undermined the entire concept of monarchy and led to a transition to political democracy in the English-speaking countries and over the course of two centuries in much of the rest of the world.

However, politics in all its forms—monarchy, democracy, socialism and fascism–has failed to nurture, protect and reward those people whose intellectual creativity, discoveries and technological innovations have most benefited mankind and improved the human condition.

The explicit and implicit principles of the American Revolution point the way to a better future and a new kind of democracy–a democracy of individual self-rule–based not on the will of a politically manipulated majority, but rather on the freedom of mankind to achieve proprietary self-government that would supersede politics by protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. First and foremost this new form of self-government would protect intellectual property and those who generate it, who are the source of all progress towards a humane, peaceful, healthy and prosperous human society.


Coercion destroys information and stifles progress: Copernicus delays publication; the persecution of Bruno and Galileo; Thomas Paine on the principles of government

The heliocentric (sun-centered) view of our solar system was put forth by Polish astronomer and philosopher Nicolas Copernicus in 1543 when he published a sensational book that started a line of inquiry that led to the scientific revolution and the Newtonian integration of physical science. As early as 1507, at age 34, Copernicus began to understand that the sun, rather than the earth was the center of the universe as he understood the universe from the most advanced knowledge of astronomy of that time. Copernicus chose to delay disclosure of his sun-centered hypothesis for over thirty years, until he was on his deathbed, out of fear that he would be condemned as a heretic. His fears were well founded. His ideas contradicted Roman Catholic dogma that man was the purpose of creation and that, therefore, the earth was the center of the universe.

Thus, it was not until 1543 that Copernicus allowed publication of his master work,  De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). This book was a giant step forward in science and the use of the scientific method. Copernicus’ work is one of the greatest books on science ever produced by humanity.

“The first speculations about the possibility of the Sun being the center of the cosmos and the Earth being one of the planets going around it go back to the third century BCE. In his Sand-Reckoner, Archimedes (d. 212 BCE), discusses how to express very large numbers. As an example he chooses the question as to how many grains of sand there are in the cosmos. And in order to make the problem more difficult, he chooses not the geocentric cosmos generally accepted at the time, but the heliocentric cosmos proposed by Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310-230 BCE), which would have to be many times larger because of the lack of observable stellar parallax. We know, therefore, that already in Hellenistic times thinkers were at least toying with this notion, and because of its mention in Archimedes’s book Aristarchus’s speculation was well-known in Europe beginning in the High Middle Ages but not seriously entertained until Copernicus.” 7

Not long after publication of Copernicus’ work there appeared a visionary philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)–one of the world’s great freethinkers. In a series of books and public lectures given across Europe, Bruno championed the Copernican hypothesis and further heresies, e.g., that even the sun was not the center of the universe, but was rather a star and the stars were infinite in number. For this, Bruno was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Inquisition and burned alive at the stake in Rome in 1600.

Galileo Galilei took up the Copernican hypothesis with great subtlety born of an awareness of Bruno’s fate. However, already in 1611 the Church had begun to consider secret charges of heresy against Galileo. In 1632 Galileo sealed his fate with the publication of Dialogue On The Great World Systems. This book angered the Pope who instigated prosecution by the Inquisition.

Galileo was tried for heresy by the Inquisition in 1633, in Rome, and threatened with torture unless he retracted his espousal of the Copernican hypothesis. Unlike Bruno, who had refused to recant, Galileo did, understandably. That saved his life, but the Church sentenced him to house arrest where he stayed for the remaining nine years of his life. He was forbidden to publish or even discuss anything about the Copernican hypothesis and was not allowed to talk to Protestants.

Galileo’s book, Dialogue on the Great World Systems (1632), that had infuriated the Pope by arguing the Copernican hypothesis, was placed on the Church’s Index of Prohibited  Books that Catholics were forbidden to read–and stayed there for 200 years. “The effect of the trial and of the imprisonment [of Galileo] was to put a total stop to the scientific tradition in the Mediterranean. From then on the Scientific Revolution moved to Northern Europe.” 8

It was not until the year 2000 that Pope John Paul II apologized on behalf of the Church for the persecution of Galileo, acknowledging finally, 367 years after Galileo’s trial, that  Galileo was right and the Church was wrong. The great error of the Church was not in maintaining the earth-centered view of the world but in forbidding the free inquiry and consideration of other views that leads to advances in knowledge.

Newton, Leibniz and the calculus

Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), a German contemporary of Newton, independently also developed the calculus, employing the notation that is universally in use today.

Newtonian physics not invalidated by Einstein’s relativity theory or any other post-Newtonian discoveries in science

Newton’s biographers have given the world insight into the monumental accomplishment embodied in his masterpiece, Principa Mathematica. When it appeared in 1687, “as a system of the world . . . it was sensational from the moment it was published.” 9  Over 300 years later scientists and mathematicians are still in awe of Newton’s achievements.

As a young man of 22 in 1665-1666, Newton developed the calculus and the basic ideas of his laws of motion and gravitation, but published nothing about these ideas until, at the request of the noted astronomer Edmund Halley, he issued a short, nine-page essay in 1684. Recognizing the genius manifested by Newton’s brief essay, Halley persuaded Newton to publish his ideas in full, and undertook to underwrite the cost of publication. Only then did Newton begin to write Principia. He was consumed by the project for two years, writing, calculating and writing more, scarcely taking time to eat or sleep. Newton biographer and mathematician David Berlinski says of Principia that “. . . it is without question [mankind’s] greatest work of pure thought [and is] . . . one of humanity’s greatest treasures.” 10

Newton stated as postulates (unproven assumptions taken to be true) that space and time are absolute. Albert Einstein falsified these two postulates in his Theory of Relativity, which show that while the speed of light is absolute–i.e., the same for all observers–man’s  observations of space and time are relative to the place of the observer and the speed with which he is moving. 11 Einstein also replaced Newton’s concept of gravity as “action at a distance” with the concept of gravity as an effect of the curvature of space. Yet Einstein’s theory builds on Newton’s law of gravitation. Einstein predicted that starlight would bend in toward the sun under the sun’s gravitational pull, a proposition confirmed in two famous observations of a solar eclipse in 1919 and since corroborated numerous times.

In the 20th century, some commentators have claimed that Newton’s world view was too limited, and has been superseded by Einstein’s theory of relativity and related developments in physics. Einstein himself had views of Newton similar to those of Galambos as evidenced by the following remarks in Einstein’s Eulogy to Newton issued on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Newton’s death. See

“[Newton] was not only an inventor of genius in respect of particular guiding methods; he also showed a unique mastery of the empirical material known in his time, and he was marvelously inventive in special mathematical and physical demonstrations. For all these reasons he deserves our deep veneration. He is, however, a yet more significant figure than his own mastery makes him, since he was placed by fate at a turning point in the world’s intellectual development. This is brought home vividly to us when we recall that before Newton there was no comprehensive system of physical causality which could in any way render the deeper characters of the world of concrete experience. . .

“The whole development of our ideas concerning natural phenomena may be conceived as an organic development of Newton’s thought. . .  [Although] Newton’s theory of motion, considered as a program for the whole field of theoretical physics, suffered its first shock from Maxwell’s theory of electricity . . . Even Faraday and Maxwell’s revolution in electrodynamics and optics, which was the first great advance in the fundamental principles of theoretical physics since Newton, was still achieved entirely under the guidance of Newton’s ideas.”

Of course, since Newton there have been great developments in the physical sciences. Newton did not and could not know all that was later discovered, for example, about heat and energy, electricity, and the microcosm of atomic physics.

David Berlinski sums up Newton’s place in science as follows:

“There [are] four absolutely fundamental physical theories: Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics . . . [T]he principles that Newton invoked . . . led to a cascading series of immensely productive [scientific] definitions. . . These definitions have now spread and enlarged themselves so that they cover and explain virtually every aspect of material behavior that is larger than the atom and smaller than the universe. . . What Newton justified by his superb visual imagination and his powerful mathematical technique is confirmed every time a satellite is sent into orbit.” 12

In Galambos’ course on physics he stated that Einstein’s theory of Relativity did not supersede Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation. Rather, Newton’s work was a first approximation of reality to which Einstein brought a second and broader approximation of reality.

Newton did not make such grand claims for himself, saying:

“To explain all nature is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one age. ‘Tis much better to do a little with certainty, and leave the rest for others that come after you, than to explain all things. . . I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” 13

Thomas Paine on the principles of government

In his book The Rights of Man (1791) Paine pointed to the new American constitutional government established in 1787-1788 as a worthy alternative to monarchy. Paine could not foresee that political democracy itself could become an instrument of tyranny of the majority.

Paine ought not to be faulted for that lack of foresight because he could not know how political democracy would develop in America. In The Rights of Man Paine also enunciated the following principles that are wholly consistent with the position taken by Andrew Galambos in his V-50 lectures: that no generation has the right to establish a government binding on future generations; that such governments are instruments of injustice; and that the only principle on which a government has the right to exist is by contract of individuals among themselves.

The development of the coercive power of the state in the United States is the subject of several subsequent chapters entitled:

Political Democracy in America

The Great Depression and its aftermath—a fundamental change in America

Wars of the United States of America

Monopolies: Coercive and Non-coercive

Price Regulations: Shutting Off the Lifeblood of the Economic Circulatory System


Thomas Paine: revolutionary or evolutionary?

Galambos taught that Thomas Paine alone was responsible for America’s rejection of monarchy. However, a magnificent book by Richard Pipes, Property and Freedom (1999) illustrates a somewhat different picture. Richard Pipes is Baird Professor of History Emeritus at Harvard University.

From Richard Pipes we learn that England evolved out of monarchy to parliamentary democracy, while keeping the monarch as a figurehead. What follows immediately hereafter is a summary of the history set forth in Pipes’ Property and Freedom, chapter 3, entitled “England and the Birth of Parliamentary Democracy.” [Material within brackets has been added to round out the picture drawn by Professor Pipes.]

[Paine was born in 1737 and lived in England until he left for American in 1774. In the formative years of Paine’s education he circulated among the intellectual elite of London. That is how he met Benjamin Franklin, emissary from the colonies to Britain. It was Franklin who urged Paine to go to America.]

[As an educated Englishman Paine knew the 17th century history of Britain in which monarchs of the House of Stuart claimed to rule by divine right and denied that the people had any right to gainsay the king. But English traditions and growing strength of the parliament and the landed gentry who dominated parliament were against the absolute power of monarchy claimed by the Stuart kings James I and his son Charles I.]

In the history of England the king never had absolute power over the people. Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, the English kings were considered not above the law, but were subject to the law which had developed by tradition and custom. The King could interpret the law. The King did not tax much, except for taxes on exports and imports. The King owned vast tracts of land and derived most of royal income from rents for use of the land paid by feudal barons.

The Magna Carta of 1215 required King John not to levy taxes without the consent of the barons who were the people who had the means to pay taxes.

This principle, no taxation without consent of the taxed, was upheld throughout English history, but was also the cause of perpetual friction between the monarch and the taxpayers.

By the 16th century, and the reign of the Tudor Dynasty (1485-1603), England’s wealth was growing through development of foreign trade and a merchant class. By the beginning of the rule of the House of Tudor in 1485, most Englishmen were free men, and villeinage and serfdom had almost completely disappeared. A villein was a free man, not a serf, who nevertheless owed duties to a baronial landlord. Parliament had grown to include the House of Commons where landed gentry had the right to vote. Parliament was convened only when called by the King to approve taxes, generally to finance wars.

[The landed gentry were a privileged British social class, consisting of land owners who could live entirely off rental income.]

The Stuart dynasty began in 1603 with the death of Queen Elizabeth I, who was childless. James I became king of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth. He proclaimed that he ruled by divine right, but could not make this idea stick, as Parliament insisted on its right to limit the ability of the King to tax without consent of Parliament.

Parliament was not a regularly convened legislature, but rather met only when convened by the king for purposes of considering the king’s request for additional taxes.

James I was followed in 1625 by his son Charles I, King from 1625 to 1649. Charles was in perpetual conflict with Parliament due to his attempts to tax without the consent of Parliament. This conflict erupted into civil war from 1641 to 1648. The opposition to the king, led by Oliver Cromwell, had a decisive victory over the forces of the king in 1648. The King was executed in 1649. [So much for the absolute power of the monarch in England.] For the next decade of English history, known as the Commonwealth era, there was no king. Oliver Cromwell was the de facto ruler under the title Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England.

Cromwell was offered kingship in 1657 and turned it down. He became mortally ill and died in 1658. His son became Lord Protector for nine months. Conflict between the army [Cromwell’s power base] and Parliament led to the resignation of Richard Cromwell and the initiation of a process resulting in restoration of the monarchy and a call to Charles II to return to England as king under terms that further restricted the power of the monarch, to which Charles II agreed.

The reign of Charles II was a period of increasing prosperity as England stayed out of wars. James II, brother of Charles II, became King in 1685 upon the death of Charles II. In 1688 James II fled England under political pressure arising out of fears that he would favor Catholics and would abolish parliament. These fears were not groundless.

Parliament then invited the Dutch prince William of Orange (born 1650) to become King together with his wife Mary. [William ruled part of Holland as a prince, in what was actually the republic of the Netherlands. William was partly Dutch and partly English, as his mother Mary was the daughter of Charles I, former king of England.]

Parliament offered the monarchy to William and Mary under conditions which further limited the power of the monarch and increased the relative power of Parliament. William and Mary accepted those terms.

Queen Mary died in 1694. On the death of King William in 1702, without heirs, Queen Mary’s sister Anne, became Queen until her death in 1714. Anne, too, died without heirs.  Under the terms of the Act of Settlement of 1701, Anne was succeeded by her second cousin, George I of the House of Hanover, Germany, who was a descendant of English monarchs through his maternal grandmother, a daughter of King James I of England.

[Kings and Queens from the House of Hanover were monarchs of England until the death of the last Hanover, Victoria, Queen from 1837 to 1901.]

The relative impotence of the monarchy after 1688-1689 is evidenced by the following comment from Professor Pipes in his Property and Freedom:

“Relations between the court [the monarchy] and the House of Commons in the eighteenth century were not always amicable. But the settlement reached in 1688-1689, crowning as it did the long struggle of parliament to assert its rights, left no doubt as to the outcome. Suffice it to say that when in 1810, in the midst of the war against Napoleonic France, King George III was pronounced incurably insane, his inability to perform his duties no longer made any difference to the functioning of the British government, for power had shifted decisively to parliament.”

[The subject of monarchy in newly independent America came up in 1782, after the British military had suspended operations in America, but before the Treaty of Paris (1783) that formally ended the war between the American colonies and Britain.]

[The story of George Washington rejecting the idea of becoming King of America is related by Joseph J. Ellis in his biography of Washington entitled His Excellency: George Washington (2004). According to Ellis, “After Yorktown, the final battle of the war for independence . . . new life was breathed into . . . old fears [that America would become a republic with Washington as military dictator because of] Washington’s insistence on maintaining the Continental Army at full strength . . . [even though] a majority of the citizenry believed . . . that the war was over . . .”

“Washington was fully aware [of these fears]. . .

“In May 1782 a young [army] officer, . . . Lewis Nicola put in writing what many officers were whispering behind the scenes . . . that certain disaster would befall postwar America unless Washington declared himself king. . . Washington responded [that Nicola should] ‘banish these thoughts from your Mind,’ and denounced the scheme as ‘big with the greatest mischiefs can befall my Country.’

“When word of Washington’s response leaked out to the world . . . [British King] George III was heard to say that if Washington resisted the monarchical mantle and retired . . . he would be ‘the greatest man in the world.’” 14

Conclusions: Thomas Paine, in his sensational pamphlet Common Sense (1776), denounced hereditary monarchy and called upon America to reject it. No provision for monarchy appears in The Articles of Confederation created in 1777 and ratified by all thirteen states in 1781 or the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787 and ratified by all the states in 1788.

As explained succinctly by Professor Pipes, Britain evolved gradually from monarchy to parliamentary democracy established under an unwritten constitution developed by tradition and precedent known as the English common law. The process of evolution from monarchy to democracy in Britain went on for more than five hundred years, from before the Magna Carta of 1215 to the final supremacy of parliament achieved by the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689. What power the monarchy retained in Britain after 1689 was gradually reduced further to the point that the monarch had become a ruler in name only by the time King George III was adjudged incompetent by reason of insanity during the last decade of the 18th century and the first decade of the 19th century.

In the early 21st century Britain still has hereditary monarchy but the monarchy is only ceremonial.

It seems from the foregoing that Thomas Paine’s advocacy of political democracy for America and abolition of monarchy was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, with the exception of Paine’s advocacy of separation from Britain and denunciation of the hereditary element in monarchy, which were truly revolutionary ideas. However, much of Paine’s thesis in Common Sense appears to be consistent with the traditions of England.

The new American republic established after victory in the War for Independence differed in some important ways from the parliamentary democracy developed in  England by The Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689: the new American nation would have no titled nobility, no established national church, and no religious tests for political office. Nevertheless, the American republic did not spring up out of a vacuum. The connection between and differences of British and American political democracy are examined in a noteworthy book by Michael Barone, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval that Inspired America’s Founding Fathers (2007).




Music Selection:
Bach – Orchestral Suite #3 in D major – Adagio – Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra – Yehudi Menuhin – conductor


  1. See Hoyle, Fred, Astronomy (1962), pages 83-84.]
  2. Nelson, Craig, Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution,and the Birth of Modern Nations (2006).
  3. Quoted from  Wikipedia, The Reign of Terror, citing Greer, Donald,  The Incidence of the Terror during the French Revolution : A Statistical Interpretation (Harvard University Press 1935).
  4. Quoted in Nelson, Craig, Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (2006), page 254.
  5. On July 27 Robespierre himself was condemned to death and guillotined the next day, as the reign of terror stopped when no one in political leadership felt safe from denunciation and execution. Paine was not feed until three months later. The story is told in Nelson, Craig, Thomas Paine, pages 282-284
  6. See Wikipedia, The Marquis de Lafayette, citing Gaines, James R., For Liberty and Glory: Washington, LaFayette, and Their Revolutions (2007); and Wikipedia, Napoleonic Wars Casualties,
  7. Quoted from “The Galileo Project” a project supported by the Office of the Vice President of Computing of Rice University of Houston, Texas.
  8. Bronowski, Jacob, The Ascent of Man (1973), pages 214, 218.
  9. Bronowski, Jacob, The Ascent of Man (1973), page 233.
  10. Berlinski, David, Newton’s Gift (2000), pages 91-95.
  11. Bronowski, Jacob, The Ascent of Man (1973), pages 233, 240-241, 245-256.
  12. Berlinski, David, Newton’s Gift (2000), pages 133, 168, 200.
  13. Quotation from Bronowski, Jacob,The Ascent of Man (1973), page 236.
  14. Quoted from Ellis, His Excellency” George Washington, pages 138-139

2 Responses to From Galileo and Newton to
Communication at the Speed of Light

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.