Thursday, January 26, 2012

eReadings 7

History of Science

This is a series of 4 volumes starting in prehistoric times (yes, I said prehistoric times), and carefully covering the advances of science. I think there were 2 eras in which the accomplishments were quite amazing. Keep in mind that I'm reading out-of-copyright books, and this series was written in the late 19th century.

First, the Greeks. Their powers of reasoning and investigation are astounding, and there was very little to match them for centuries after the Greek decline. The Romans added very little to what the Greeks had already discerned. In spite of their limited knowledge about the extent of the world, the Greeks had determined that the Earth was a sphere, even though they had no idea as to where land was, where sea was on this sphere. There was the first notion of heliocentricity of our solar system, forgotten and discarded for many centuries. And of course we have people like Pythagoras and Euclid, who came up with important principles we still learn today. But we also get a sense of the attitude of some of these Greeks, a fair amount of hubris and jealousy, so this series is more than a recitation of dry facts.

In the 19th century, abetted by some very clever people in the 17th and 18th centuries, we see the beginnings of modern science as we know it, with careful experimentation, the discovery of new elements, the early development of the atomic theory, and again the various rivalries, co-discoveries, and they way that some became famous quite deservedly, some who did so less deservedly, and some who should have been famous but were overlooked.

It takes a while to go through these volumes, but for those interested in science and science history, it's well worth your while.

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