Although I acknowledge there are also very rich, interesting and more ancient stories from other parts of the world, these will have to wait for another day.
The Age of Enlightenment ended with the Romantic Era
A good potted history can be found at: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment
In summary, in Europe around the 1600s, the "Age of Enlightenment" or the "Age of Reason" or the "Renaissance" marked the end of the "Middle Ages" or "Dark Ages" or "Medieval Period". These various names evoke the coming of the "light of reason" after the "darkness of superstition".
But many historians now argue that the "Middle Ages" from the 5th to 16th centuries were not so dark after all because the foundations of today's science, philosophy, religion and also education were slowly being laid, allowing the scientific (and later the industrial) revolution to occur. (listverse.com)
The ideas being circulated during the Age of Enlightenment played a major role in the American Revolution through people like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (both of whom were knowledgeable about the science of the time, and were in tune with the philosophical discussions in France). Political ideas concerning "rationality" from this period resulted in documents such as the American Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, and similar manifests in several European countries.
Philosophers and scientists (collectively called "natural philosophers") of the late 1600s aimed to reform society. Their ideal was to use the "new science" of rational thought based on clearly stated principles, logical argument and testing of ideas against evidence before coming to conclusions; challenging ideas that had previously been based only on tradition. A few of the most famous names of the times were Francis Bacon, David Hume, Voltaire, and Isaac Newton.
The "Romantic Era" that followed in the 1800s was, in some ways, ideologically the opposite. Philosophers, artists, musicians and writers realised that emotion has a big part to play in developing humane social frameworks. Much of the art, literature and music that we now regard as "classical" stems from this Romantic time.
Recent research has confirmed that we rely on emotion as well as rational thinking to make decisions (advertisers and con artists have always known this!) (www.criticalthinking.org)
Beautiful beach leaves likened to the Enlightenment
England – scientific societies
Back in England in November 1660, a group of intellectuals formed what is now the "Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge" (more commonly, the Royal Society). It was based on the Philosophical Society of Oxford at Gresham College. The Royal Charter giving its current name was granted by King Charles II in 1663. Originally a "college for the promoting of physico-mathematical experimental learning", it now funds prizes and awards, supports scientific publications and advises the British government, the European Commission and the United Nations on scientific matters. Its motto is Nullius in verba ("Take nobody's word for it").
An aside: A Royal Charter is a formal document issued by a monarch that was once the sole means by which an incorporated body could be formed in Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Charter. In Australia, we are familiar with several such Chartered organisations, among them the RACV, RACQ and RSPCA in the social/service area and the Royal Society of NSW and the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) in the science sphere.
France – the "Salons" - and cross-channel communication
In France (and some other countries such as Italy), the discussions that were held in more informal "Salons" culminated in the gread "EncyclopÃ©die" (1751-72) which contained contributions by hundreds of leading academics of the time. Many of these Salons were conducted by prominent women, as this was the only way available to them to advance their own education and knowledge of current ideas. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salon_(gathering))
It is probable that the idea of the Royal Society in London was bred in the Salons of France and the resulting discussions between participants on both sides of the Channel. It is certain that people from all over Europe and America presented papers at the meetings of the Royal Society, which became one of the most prestigious means of publishing new scientific results.
I am always totally impressed at the way information, letters and papers were shared between people on the Continent, in England and even in America. The number of personnel visiting each other in different countries also amazing. There was no internet, no telephones, not even photographs, and certainly no planes. There was only the wind and water for transportation; not even steam ships until 1819. Yet people communicated with each other more quickly than I first imagined.
Beach leaves likened to European delights
The Royal Society of NSW
In the new Colony of New South Wales in 1821, two medical practitioners, two Judges, the Colonial Secretary, an Army officer/farmer and a merchant got together to form "The Philosophical Society of Australasia" with newly-arrived Governor Brisbane as its President. It had "a view to enquiring into the various branches of physical science of this vast continent and its adjacent regions". Queen Victoria granted Royal Assent in 1866 when it was renamed "The Royal Society of New South Wales". It was later incorporated by an Act of the NSW Parliament in 1881.
Over the years, like its counterpart in London, the Society has fostered scientific research and communication. It awards prizes and awards, sponsors publications, liaises with other societies, holds meetings and symposia and maintains a library. (royalsoc.org.au)
One of its scientific awards is the James Cook Medal, first awarded in 1947 with funding by a prominent surveyer and town planner named Henry Halloran. The name of this medal reminds us that Captain Cook's voyages were primarily scientific expeditions. It is only presented periodically for "outstanding contributions to science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere," andbefore now, the previous awardee was Sir Gustav Nossal in 1994.
Professor Brien Holden wins James Cook Medal
In may 2014, Brien Holden, an optometrist with a track record of helping poor people all across the globe to see more clearly using the minimum of fuss and technology, and as cheaply as possible, was awared this medal. He is a worthy recipient. (www.brienholdenvision.org)
Brien was inspired to help disadvantaged people after seeing poverty in many ports during his sea voyage to a position in England after graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1964. He has always been innovative in improving eye health for all (including the development of "soft" contact lenses at the University of New South Wales). To date, his Brien Holden Vision Institute has established over 100 vision centres in Aboriginal communities and 350 in forty countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. (www.brienholdenvision.org)
Professor Holden has earned this award for combining his rigorous scientific advances with development of humanitarian, yet practical, social systems to help those in need. He embodies the best of the heritage from both the Age of Reason and the Romantic Era, as is the aim of awarding the James Cook Medal.
James 1:5 (NIV) "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
Leaves express generosity
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html