It had been a long night and it looked as if the sun would never rise. But rise it did, the first rays of freedom flickering across Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries, in what we usually call the Renaissance. Essentially this sun was freedom, with a variety of new concepts and accomplishments spinning off of it. At first the light was dim, but it grew brighter during the 17th century-the Age of Reason-and reached its zenith at high noon with the 18th-century Enlightenment. Its rays would stimulate artistic and then scientific endeavors as never before and would create a revolutionary philosophical system of optimism and progress that would spread across the Atlantic and create the United States of America.