Synopses & Reviews
In 1492 Columbus set out across the Atlantic; in 1776 American colonists declared their independence. Between these two events old authorities collapsedand#151;Lutherand#8217;s Reformation divided churches, and various discoveries revealed the ignorance of the ancient Greeks and Romans. A new, empirical worldview had arrived, focusing now on observation, experiment, and mathematical reasoning.
This engaging book takes us along on the great voyage of discovery that ushered in the modern age. David Knight, a distinguished historian of science, locates the Scientific Revolution in the great era of global oceanic voyages, which became both a spur to and a metaphor for scientific discovery. He introduces the well-known heroes of the story (Galileo, Newton, Linnaeus) as well as lesser-recognized officers of scientific societies, printers and booksellers who turned scientific discovery into public knowledge, and editors who invented the scientific journal. Knight looks at a striking array of topics, from better maps to more accurate clocks, from a boom in printing to medical advancements. He portrays science and religion as engaged with each other rather than in constant conflict; in fact, science was often perceived as a way to uncover and celebrate Godand#8217;s mysteries and laws. Populated with interesting characters, enriched with fascinating anecdotes, and built upon an acute understanding of the era, this book tells a story as thrilling as any in human history.
"Knight, eminent historian and philosopher of science, covers the Late Medieval/Early Modern scientific revolution thoroughly, pausing only to correct popular misconceptions, especially those involving the belief that science and religion were always at odds. He places Galileo's trial into its political framework and also cites the religiosity of founders of modern science: Newton, Boyle, and Descartes, among others. 'Science was not secular or value-free,' as Knight notes, 'it meant reading God's Book of Nature.' He chronicles successes and failures as the proto-scientists stumbled their way to understanding, such as Anton van Leeuwenhoek's early use of the microscope, and William Harvey's attempts to understand how the heart worked. The book is divided by topic: chemistry, astronomy, medicine, religion, 'practical science' (technology), 'natural science' (botany, biology, geology), and the establishment of societies to share and expand knowledge. This last laid the foundations for the 18th-century discoveries and inventions that are the basis of contemporary science. By putting the development of empirical science in a social context, Knight reminds readers that nothing happens in a vacuum, nor are humans at the end of discovery. 'A good deal of what I was taught... is now seen as erroneous,' he states with some pleasure, and one feels that he can't wait to see what comes next. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An ambitious, landmark history of the Scientific Revolution, from the age of Columbus to the age of Cook
About the Author
David Knight is Emeritus Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Durham University, and former editor of the British Journal for the History of Science. He lives in Durham, UK.