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Before Galileo: The Advancement of Science in the Middle Agesby John Freely
Synopses & Reviews
"Freely makes the surprising case for modern science's origins during the Dark Ages, centuries before Galileo and the scientific revolution. With the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 48 B.C.E., original works from Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and others were lost to the Western world. Fortunately, some secondhand copies and other fragments survived in the possession of scholars outside Alexandria; preserved in monasteries across western Europe, the materials also excited further study when, after 762 C.E., they reached the Arab world of the Abbasid caliphate. Freely explains how, despite the opinion of many medieval Christian scholars that the study of science was unnecessary — 'for in order to save one's soul, it is enough to believe in God' — translations into Latin by clergymen-scholars like Boethius, Cassiodorus, and Gerard of Cremona disseminated ancient Greek and more contemporary Arab ideas, heavily influencing medieval thinkers. Thus, reintroduction of Aristotle's cause-and-effect reasoning forced scholars like Thomas Aquinas to walk 'a tightrope to avoid conflict with Church dogma,' but from Bologna to Oxford secular universities began to flourish, nourishing the roots of what became Roger Bacon's 'scientific method' and Copernicus's heliocentric solar system. Freely's argument isn't entirely convincing, but he does provide a detailed look at the lineage and transmission of scientific thought from the Greeks through the medieval era. Agent: Derek Johns, AP Watt Ltd. (U.K.)." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Histories of modern science often begin with the heroic battle between Galileo and the Catholic Church, which ignited the Scientific Revolution and led to the world-changing discoveries of Isaac Newton. Virtually nothing is said about the European scholars who came before. In reality, more than a millennium before the Renaissance, a succession of scholars paved the way for the discoveries for which Galileo, Newton, and others are often credited.
In Before Galileo, John Freely examines the pioneering research of the first European scientists, many of them monks whose influence ranged far beyond the walls of the monasteries where they studied and wrote. One of the earliest of them, Saint Bede, writing a thousand years before Galileo, was so renowned that two centuries after his death a Swiss monk wrote that "in the sixth day of the world [God] has made Bede rise from the West as a new Sun to illuminate the whole Earth."
Before Galileo trenchently fills a notable gap in the history of science, and places the great discoveries of the age in their rightful context.
About the Author
John Freely was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. He dropped out of school at seventeen to join the US Navy for the last two years of World War II. He earned his Ph.D. from New York University and completed his postdoctoral studies at Oxford. He teaches physics at Bosphorous University in Istanbul. He has written more than forty books, including The Grand Turk and Istanbul: The Imperial City.
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History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval