1596 in science
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- David Fabricius discovers the first non-supernova variable star, Omicron Ceti.
- Johannes Kepler's Mysterium Cosmographicum is the first published defense of the Copernican (heliocentric) system of planetary motion.
- William Slingsby discovers that water from the Tewitt Well mineral spring at Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, possesses similar properties to that from Spa, Belgium.
- Abraham Ortelius, in the last edition of his Thesaurus geographicus, considers the possibility of continental drift.
- June 17 – Willem Barents makes the first documented discovery of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago.
- John Harington describes the "Ajax", a precursor to the modern flush toilet, in The Metamorphosis of Ajax.
- March 31 – René Descartes (d. 1650), French-born philosopher and mathematician.
- approximate date – Peter Mundy (d. c.1667), English traveller.
- January 27 – Sir Francis Drake (b. 1540), English explorer (at sea).
- September 15 – Leonhard Rauwolf (b. either 1535 or 1540), German botanist and physician.
- September – Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser (b. 1540?), Frisian navigator (at sea).