The Renaissance and the Enlightenment name two distinctly different periods of European history. They both heralded major changes in culture, art, philosophy, science, and mathematics. The Renaissance is associated with advances in literature, architecture, humanism, and a world economy, while the Enlightenment is associated with the scientific method, industrialization, rationality, astronomy, and calculus.
The Renaissance occurred during the 14th-16th centuries, following the Middle Ages. In French, the name translates as "rebirth," meaning that this was a Golden Age of artistic, cultural, and intellectual thought and production. During this era, great contributions were made to music, astronomy, painting, architecture, poetry, drama, and philosophy. Some famous people of this period include Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Niccolo Machiavelli.
Financial, political, and technological innovations contributed to this explosion in civilization. The Black Plague killed many people but ended up redistributing wealth, remapping cities, and establishing a literate middle class. The Gutenberg press allowed people to translate and widely distribute written material. Advents in ship building and ocean navigation enabled closer economic ties between all of Europe and the East, not to mention the New World. Knowledge was accessible when Greek and Roman texts were translated from Latin into Italian, French, and English, so scholars could expand upon Ancient wisdom.
From about 1650-1800, Europe and the New World experienced an Enlightenment that introduced new paradigms of morality. This, too, was a period of discovery, but is generally limited to the realm of science, mathematics, and technology. Logic and reason reigned as thinkers became convinced that society and the natural world were like a giant, united machine that, while it may be complicated, could eventually be dismantled, studied, and mastered. The scientific method, which relied on the notion of objective observation leading to verifiable conclusions, spurred developments in astronomy, philosophy, medicine and physiology, transportation, chemistry, and ethics.
Empirical data suddenly displaced people's superstitious notions of how the world functioned by explaining mystical phenomena such as lightning, eclipses, disease, or hallucinations. The new authority in this part of the world was research and science, rather than the Church and God. Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Gottfried Liebnitz are associated with the new fields of science such as calculus, cosmology, and physics. Society valued truth and the acquisition of knowledge as worthwhile pursuits that informed philosophy. Ethical behavior to treat everyone fairly was described in treatises by Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza.