1.) What was the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian view of the universe, and how did Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton undermine it and institute an alternative?
The Ptolemaic-Aristotelian view of the universe stood on a non-heliocentric foundation; that there was a fixed-position motionless earth at the center of a series of aligned spheres. The basic understanding at this point in time was that the universe consisted of perfectly spherical planets, all in circular orbits traveling at a constant speed. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton were all able to correct this and institute an alternative using science and observation. They relied less on inherited traditional institutions, and more on facts that they were able to gather.
2.) Buffon, Zoology
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon is greatly known as a French naturalist, but was also known for his work as a mathematician, his work in cosmology, and also having been an encyclopedic author. Buffon began the work of classifying the diversity of life forms and fossil records; he wrote a 44 volume natural history about life (and animals) on a grand scale that had never before been observed in such a manner. Having laid the groundwork for cell theory (with many others) breakthroughs began a new understanding of microorganisms and their behaviors as well as development. His works on degeneration were also a great influence to those who followed him.
3.) What were the main ideas associated with the Enlightenment?
The Enlightenment is mainly associated with reason, both now, and when it began. The whole point of the Enlightenment was to begin using science as a model for knowledge, rather than the previously relied on traditions and inherited institutions. With this change in times, came a greater confidence in human nature, and religion was separated from ritual. God was viewed more strongly as someone who set the world in motion, but no longer interfered after life began. This was a time of serious awareness and understanding, and with this meant less following, and more leading among the people themselves.