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Science and Technology

The Elizabethan era was a period of great advances in world exploration, medicine, and the study of the universe. Sir Francis Drake became the first Englishman to sail around the world. He left from England in 1577 on a trading expedition to the Nile. Instead, he soon found himself on the coast of South America. From there, he made his way up the coast of the American continent until he reached the North American northwest, near the present states of Washington and Oregon. Continuing westward, Drake's crew sailed through the Indian Ocean, passed the coast of Africa, and returned to England in 1580. He had spent almost three years spanning approximately 36,000 miles across the globe.

The period brought great advances in medical science, namely in the study of human anatomy and developments in dissection and surgical operations. Andreas Vesalius founded the study of modern anatomy, and authored De Humanis Corporis Fabrica (On the Workings of the Human Body). The seven-volume work was dedicated to Charles V, and was illustrated by Titian's pupil, Jan Stephen van Calcar. The work emphasized the priority of dissection and what has come to be called the "anatomical" view of the body (seeing human internal functioning as an essentially corporeal structure filled with organs arranged in three-dimensional space). This was in stark contrast to many of the anatomical models used previously, which had strong Galenic/Aristotlean elements, as well as elements of astrology. Meanwhile, Costanzo Varolio engaged in understanding the innerworkings of the human brain. In 1568, Varolio produced a detailed description of the central nervous system, and in particular, of the structure now known as "pons Varolii".

Inventions of the period include the graphite pencil, the modern calendar, time bomb, wind-powered sawmill, and the thermoscope. Galileo Galilei's thermoscope indicated temperature differences and was the predecessor to the thermometer. During the Elizabethan era, Galileo also invented the hydrostatic balance, an instrument that could weigh objects in water such that their density could be calculated. In 1602, Galileo began work on a telescope modeled after one made by Hans Lippershey.