In the sixteenth century the Reformation introduced a new idea. This was the notion that knowledge is not simply the province of ecclesiastical institutions but that, especially when it comes to matters of conscience, each man should decide for himself. The “priesthood of the individual believer” was an immensely powerful notion because it rejected the papal hierarchy, and by implication all institutional hierarchy as well. Ultimately it was a charter of independent thought, carried out not by institutions but by individuals. The early Protestants didn’t know it, but they were introducing new theological concepts that would give new vitality to the emerging scientific culture of Europe.