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A companion to such acclaimed works as The Age of Wonder, A Clockwork Universe, and Darwin’s Ghosts—a groundbreaking examination of the greatest event in history, the Scientific Revolution, and how it came to change the way we understand ourselves and our world. We live in a world transformed by scientific discovery. Yet today, science and its practitioners have come under A companion to such acclaimed works as The Age of Wonder, A Clockwork Universe, and Darwin’s Ghosts—a groundbreaking examination of the greatest event in history, the Scientific Revolution, and how it came to change the way we understand ourselves and our world. We live in a world transformed by scientific discovery. Yet today, science and its practitioners have come under political attack. In this fascinating history spanning continents and centuries, historian David Wootton offers a lively defense of science, revealing why the Scientific Revolution was truly the greatest event in our history. The Invention of Science goes back five hundred years in time to chronicle this crucial transformation, exploring the factors that led to its birth and the people who made it happen. Wootton argues that the Scientific Revolution was actually five separate yet concurrent events that developed independently, but came to intersect and create a new worldview. Here are the brilliant iconoclasts—Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, and many more curious minds from across Europe—whose studies of the natural world challenged centuries of religious orthodoxy and ingrained superstition. From gunpowder technology, the discovery of the new world, movable type printing, perspective painting, and the telescope to the practice of conducting experiments, the laws of nature, and the concept of the fact, Wotton shows how these discoveries codified into a social construct and a system of knowledge. Ultimately, he makes clear the link between scientific discovery and the rise of industrialization—and the birth of the modern world we know.


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A companion to such acclaimed works as The Age of Wonder, A Clockwork Universe, and Darwin’s Ghosts—a groundbreaking examination of the greatest event in history, the Scientific Revolution, and how it came to change the way we understand ourselves and our world. We live in a world transformed by scientific discovery. Yet today, science and its practitioners have come under A companion to such acclaimed works as The Age of Wonder, A Clockwork Universe, and Darwin’s Ghosts—a groundbreaking examination of the greatest event in history, the Scientific Revolution, and how it came to change the way we understand ourselves and our world. We live in a world transformed by scientific discovery. Yet today, science and its practitioners have come under political attack. In this fascinating history spanning continents and centuries, historian David Wootton offers a lively defense of science, revealing why the Scientific Revolution was truly the greatest event in our history. The Invention of Science goes back five hundred years in time to chronicle this crucial transformation, exploring the factors that led to its birth and the people who made it happen. Wootton argues that the Scientific Revolution was actually five separate yet concurrent events that developed independently, but came to intersect and create a new worldview. Here are the brilliant iconoclasts—Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, and many more curious minds from across Europe—whose studies of the natural world challenged centuries of religious orthodoxy and ingrained superstition. From gunpowder technology, the discovery of the new world, movable type printing, perspective painting, and the telescope to the practice of conducting experiments, the laws of nature, and the concept of the fact, Wotton shows how these discoveries codified into a social construct and a system of knowledge. Ultimately, he makes clear the link between scientific discovery and the rise of industrialization—and the birth of the modern world we know.

30 review for The Invention of Science: The Scientific Revolution from 1500 to 1750

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    This is a book with a simple argument to make: that the scientific revolution was a real thing, it definitely happened, and it happened at a specific point in time, namely, ‘between 1572, when Tycho Brahe saw a nova, and 1704, when Newton published his Opticks’. In that century and a half, a staggering number of new truths about reality became understood – we went from living at the centre of a universe of celestial spheres, reading manuscripts to glean the lessons of the ancient Greeks, to livi This is a book with a simple argument to make: that the scientific revolution was a real thing, it definitely happened, and it happened at a specific point in time, namely, ‘between 1572, when Tycho Brahe saw a nova, and 1704, when Newton published his Opticks’. In that century and a half, a staggering number of new truths about reality became understood – we went from living at the centre of a universe of celestial spheres, reading manuscripts to glean the lessons of the ancient Greeks, to living on a terraqueous globe orbiting the sun, and studying printed books from a new breed of modern experimental scientists. And it was all driven by advances in instruments, a new awareness of the potential for discovery, and a growing conviction that empirical experience was more important than philosophical dogma or classical authority. The simplicity of Wootton's premise is, in a way, a clue to his defensiveness. He is explicitly arguing against the claims of ‘postmodernist’ historians, who have suggested that successful scientific theories are, in terms of historical description, not fundamentally different from unsuccessful ones, and that anyway scientific ‘truths’ are culturally dependent and enforced by political authority. Wootton is having none of this. More power to him; but unless you have gone through life with a steely conviction of the right-mindedness of Bloor's strong programme, Wootton's intramural aggression may quickly become tiresome. His arguments are aimed at his historiographical opponents, not at the general reader. And he is not above frequent asides to make this point explicit (‘It should be obvious that he was not right about this’; ‘the notion…seems to escape Boghossian’). Time and again he interrupts his narrative to bring the evil relativists on stage behind him, so we can shout at them like a pantomime audience. Look out, it's Simon Schaffer! It's Michel Foucault, with waxed moustaches and a black cape! Boo! Hiss! They're behind you (for a given local value of ‘behind’)! I imagine that fifty or sixty years ago, histories of the scientific revolution presented a standard timeline of Great Men And Their Discoveries. Happily, things have moved on a bit since then; and yet, reading Wootton, I found myself yearning for some basic facts and figures about what actually happened and who did what. In the end, this is not (as its subtitle claims) a ‘history of the scientific revolution’ at all, but rather a history of the attitudes and thought processes that contributed to or grew out of it. Instead of looking at a steady progress of breakthroughs and developments, Wootton concerns himself with changes in the era's conceptual tools; he analyses texts in great detail, focusing on specific items of vocabulary as markers of changing attitudes – indeed, some chapters seem to consist of little more than a timeline of neologisms – and he lavishes much more time and attention on the coining of such terms as ‘discovery’, ‘fact’ or ‘experiment’ than he does on actual discoveries, facts or experiments. I have a very high tolerance of this kind of semantic approach, but even I found it a bit exhausting after a while. Finally hitting a chapter on Newton, you rub your hands with anticipation, only to read: ‘My first goal in this chapter, then, is to establish why Newton was hostile to the word “hypothesis”…’ and your heart just sinks. Wootton's arguments about how language reflects mental attitudes are well-made and convincing, but what you don't get in this book is much sense of the grubby reality of early-modern science – the long nights, the sweating over furnaces, the trial and error of different practical approaches. Combined with his combative stance vis-à-vis other historical treatments, it all serves to make his undoubted learning sound uncomfortably like pedantry in places. (This is not helped by a somewhat finicky approach to notation: Wootton uses Latin numerals for endnotes and Roman numerals for footnotes, so that many sentences end in a superscripted mishmash of characters: ‘…even then it was at first confined to political revolutionsˣˣˣⁱᵛ⁴¹’.) Overall, I'm unsure how much I'd recommend this. On the one hand, it really has changed the way I think about the long seventeenth century, especially in terms of how I interpret the language of all these early scientists. And fundamentally I share Wootton's impatience with a lot of relativist history. All the same, the sad truth is that I'm just left craving a plainer, more chronological description of the key breakthroughs of the period. Doubtless many such histories exist, but this one, which positions itself as a new standard, feels too polemical to be in a position to fully replace them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebwood

    I was so looking forward to liking this book. But in the end, I did not really warm to it. I do not say this lightly, and it even takes me some courage to admit it. Why so? Because the history of ideas is a subject close to my heart, and I wrote a longish essay at university about the development of historiography in the 17th century. That does not mean I am an expert on this subject - far from it - but it does mean that I researched some of the dynamics this book explores in quite some depth, a I was so looking forward to liking this book. But in the end, I did not really warm to it. I do not say this lightly, and it even takes me some courage to admit it. Why so? Because the history of ideas is a subject close to my heart, and I wrote a longish essay at university about the development of historiography in the 17th century. That does not mean I am an expert on this subject - far from it - but it does mean that I researched some of the dynamics this book explores in quite some depth, and that I was hoping to re-discover the joy I had at university through reading the book. But for the most part, I did not, and here is why: This book is a proper work of scholarly research Now, this of course would rather speak in favour of it than against it. But after decades spent outside the world of academia, I had forgotten what academic research can be like. The part I had forgotten is that many scholars find it necessary to define the scope of their topic clinically, aiming to make clear precisely where they stand relative to other scholars, how they differ from other research, and who they regard as their intellectual influence. And again, there is not necessarily anything wrong with this. But, come on, David, was it really necessary to spend 50 pages on whether the term "scientific revolution" is appropriate or not to describe the three centuries since the discovery of America? The term was invented by Thomas Kuhn, a key scholar in the field, whose book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was met with so much acclaim that the key term from its title re-surfaced in the research of other eminent thinkers (notably Alexandre Koyre, The Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus, Kepler, Borelli. Now, apparently, the term "revolution" is so ingrained in the scholarly psyche that we need a tedious chapter discussing whether naming conventions established by contemporary scholars are appropriate or not. I was hoping this book would deepen my insights into a crucial development in the history of ideas. Certainly, one or two pages on this would have sufficed? So I was off to a disappointing start. In fact, I would have preferred it if David had discussed his research methodology to put his analysis onto a sound footing. Surprisingly, David chose not to talk about that at all. That is surprising in a work of scholarly research. But worse than being merely surprising, in the case of this monograph, it is also disappointing. It is disappointing because it omits a necessary building block without which much of what David says lacks rigour. Well, I thought so, anyway. Methodology: What's in a word? The methodology that I am quibbling with is a linguistic approach to historical analysis. Frequently, David traces the usage of a certain expression back through the ages, and identifies a time when the expression was not widely used. He then concludes that the concept the expression denotes cannot have existed in the time period before it was coined, and by extension concludes that the concept behind the expression developed first with the emergence of the word. The issue I have with this method is subtle. I do not deny that language reflects 'reality', and that speakers (users of the technology 'language') define words through usage and consensus of what they stand for. The expression 'internet' did not exist in ancient Greece, the word 'gay' meant something entirely different in 1730 than it does now, and there is rarely ever the need today to use the word 'abacus', for example. So yes, I agree that language reflects society, and that 'linguistic archaeology' can be a useful and appropriate tool to infer the state of mind of past societies or communities. But I wonder how this method needs to be applied, and what the conclusions are that it allows. How to apply the tool The problem with "linguistic archaeology" is that it requires a statistician, not a historian, to use it properly. The first time David uses the linguistic method is in his discussion of the term "discovery". Basically, he says that prior to the discovery of America there was no term in the European languages that expressed the concept of "first finding evidence for something hitherto unknown". David argues that the absence of the term also denotes the absence of the concept, and highlights the dominance of the Aristotelian, anti-empirical, method. I actually find David's idea convincing, and brilliantly insightful in principle. But I do not trust myself to accept if fully. And the reason is that David has not shown me evidence that frequency of usage actually jumped after 1492 from near-zero to something significantly non-zero. Actually, he never even defines what metric he uses to identify an increase in usage. It is number of occurrences per text per year? If so, where are the numbers? I want to see a bar chart. And this introduces another problem - how long does the time series have to be before I can conclude that the word 'discovery' really did not exist pre-Columbus? 100 years? 200? If I apply the benchmark of modern science, I could not accept the hypothesis as 'true' unless I can show that the frequency of usage increased to a significant level within a clearly defined confidence interval. And that is a problem unless I count words in all relevant texts on a given subject since antiquity. To be fair to David, he does mention EEBO and ECCO (Early English Books Online; Eighteenth Century Collections Online) and comments on the efficiency of search algorithms these facilities offer (p592), so there is evidence that he applied some form of structured statistical anaysis. But he never goes into his methodology, he never shows us the results, and he most certainly does not publish the numerical evidence. None of this invalidates his insights. But what I would see as lack of rigour in this regard diminishes the confidence I have in David's results. And this is a problem because his methodology of linguistic archaeology permeates the book. I suspect David is far more gifted linguist than he is a statistician. What conclusions can we draw when applying the tool? To make things worse, I did often not agree entirely with the conclusions he drew. To stay with the example of "discovery", David concludes that prior to the discovery of America, the concept of 'discovery' did not exist, because the word did not exist. But I wonder. To me, it is more plausible to suggest that discoveries were happening so rarely in pre-'Americodiscovery' times that people had not coined a word for it. So after Columbus, the Aristotelian stranglehold on natural philosophy weakened sufficiently to allow 'findings that had hitherto not been made' to occur at an ever-increasing rate, and because of this a catchy expression had to be coined. This interpretation changes the gist of David's argument only subtly, but I think the difference in viewpoint is still important enough to mention. It is different to say "the frequency of discoveries increased materially" from "discoveries did not exist pre-Columbus". But it is a beautiful book So I must admit, what I see as vagueness in the key methodology David employs did not allow me to trust his findings as much as I would have needed to for a truly satisfactory learning experience. But there are chapters in the book in which it did live up to my expectations. These are chapters 4 to 6, in which David brilliantly lays out the interplay between discoveries and the impact they have on the way we view the world. The discovery of America was to be the ultimate death-knell for the Aristotelian 4-sphere model of the world, which in turn paved the way for the development of perspective painting and a commensurate re-interpretation of the position of 'man' in the world, and of the world in the cosmos. The book is full of beautifully reproduced paintings, drawings, and woodcuts. At one point, I was so excited by the illustrations that I thought I'd buy a first-edition copy of Robert Hooke's Micrographia. I even found one on Abe Books for £80,000, plus £12 shipping. Twelve pounds shipping? The cheek of it... Ok so I didn't buy it. But I did buy a facsimile copy. And I bought some other books from the time, like Johannes Kepler's Somnium, or Francis Godwin's Man in the Moone, arguably the first ever science fiction novel. So in the end, I did have a fun time with the book, and you can see I did get excited about the time. But since it is a proper scholarly treatise, and not pop-science, I could not get past what I saw as a methodological weakness. But if your opinion on this differs, or you are able to overlook the issue, you will probably gain interesting insights reading it. So in the end, I would still recommend the book, even though I did not get the rich intellectual experience I was hoping for.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    This is probably a very important book to read if you're a philosopher of science who thinks that the theories of phlogiston and evolution are of equal validity. Of course, those people do not exist. This is clearly a failure of editing, agenting, and a triumph of misleading marketing. This book is not at all a general reader's book about the scientific revolution, and certainly not about the invention of science. it is, instead, scholarly articles embedded in a polemic against postmodernists (t This is probably a very important book to read if you're a philosopher of science who thinks that the theories of phlogiston and evolution are of equal validity. Of course, those people do not exist. This is clearly a failure of editing, agenting, and a triumph of misleading marketing. This book is not at all a general reader's book about the scientific revolution, and certainly not about the invention of science. it is, instead, scholarly articles embedded in a polemic against postmodernists (the book was apparently conceived in 1982). Others have written about the book's many structural flaws; I will just note two intellectual flaws. First, Wootton opposes the sociology of science, because they approach science sociologically, without any regard for the truth claims of scientific theories. Does he feel the same way about the sociology of religion, I wonder? To make my point clear: sociologists study human interactions. They do not care what those interactions are *about*, and if they did, they would be betraying the point of sociology. Second, Wootton's positive arguments are horrific. To take the most obvious: he claims that Columbus' discovery* of the Americas made science possible, by introducing the very concept of discovery. It was not possible to 'discover' gravity, in other words, without the concept of discovery; without that concept, one could just go on adjusting already existing theories, rather than taking account of new facts (he also covers the invention of the idea of the fact). Slight problem here: Columbus' 'discovery' of the Americas was also the Americans' 'discovery' of Europe. And yet, science did not develop in the Americas until after the Europeans had really, really, really 'discovered' it. Why not? Because concepts are useless in the absence of economic development, political support, and so on. Science may rely on the concept of discovery *grammatically* (Wootton loves him some Wittgenstein, and is at pains to show that Wittgenstein was not a relativist), but not *historically*. There is nothing here about the importance of economic development for the development of science, which is no failing in an academic article about the concept of 'discovery,' but a rather glaring one in a book about the scientific revolution. A true disappointment. *: Columbus did not, of course, 'discover' the Americas. They'd been discovered for some time by, you know, the many civilizations spread out over the continent for a millenium or more. Wootton does not care.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    another book I read across time and finished the last few pages in these two free days after the New Year - dense, requiring effort (both to understand the prose occasionally and to understand the arguments) and one I wouldn't recommend for a novice reader in its subject (The Scientific Revolution and the crucial change that happened in Western Europe gradually between 1500 and 1700, and most notably between 1600 and 1700) that led to the world of today There are always arguments whether there wa another book I read across time and finished the last few pages in these two free days after the New Year - dense, requiring effort (both to understand the prose occasionally and to understand the arguments) and one I wouldn't recommend for a novice reader in its subject (The Scientific Revolution and the crucial change that happened in Western Europe gradually between 1500 and 1700, and most notably between 1600 and 1700) that led to the world of today There are always arguments whether there was a "revolution", what is "science" and so on, but as the author points out, if you look at the "intellectual life/world view" in 1500, 1600 and 1700 the differences are striking and the fundamental questions tackled in the book are "what happened, was it "predetermined" to happen or an accident that Newton, Locke, Leibniz, Hooke and many others building/responding/arguing with earlier works by Descartes, Galileo, Copernicus and others and being able to freely (more or less) and timely meet, communicate, share, dispute happened to live and work in the same historical period, how it happened etc Not a "linear" or "events: when, who, how" but a full meditation on the subject also regarding it through the prism of current thinking and arguing with such in addition to presenting a panorama of the epoch Highly recommended and worth persevering through the book

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peck

    Simply one of the best treatments of the history and philosophy of science I've read. An exploration of how science developed, what tools and cultural conditions made it possible, and how and why it has progressed. It is also presents a very clear understanding of what science is and why it works for explicating nature and making progress in prediction. I teach History and Philosophy of Biology at my university and this has been a treasure trove in detailing the nuances of how and why science is Simply one of the best treatments of the history and philosophy of science I've read. An exploration of how science developed, what tools and cultural conditions made it possible, and how and why it has progressed. It is also presents a very clear understanding of what science is and why it works for explicating nature and making progress in prediction. I teach History and Philosophy of Biology at my university and this has been a treasure trove in detailing the nuances of how and why science is what it is today. A book rich in historical details that I will return to again and again I'm sure.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    This is no lightweight book - both literally and metaphorically. It packs in nearly 600 pages of decidedly small print, and manages to assign about 10 per cent of these simply to deciding what is meant by a 'scientific revolution' (the subtitle is 'a new history of the scientific revolution'). While warning of the importance of being aware of the change in meaning of some terms, the author successfully demolishes the arguments of those who argue that terms like science, scientist and revolution This is no lightweight book - both literally and metaphorically. It packs in nearly 600 pages of decidedly small print, and manages to assign about 10 per cent of these simply to deciding what is meant by a 'scientific revolution' (the subtitle is 'a new history of the scientific revolution'). While warning of the importance of being aware of the change in meaning of some terms, the author successfully demolishes the arguments of those who argue that terms like science, scientist and revolution can't be applied to the seventeenth century because they're anachronistic. (He doesn't say it, but this is a bit like saying you shouldn't call a dinosaur a dinosaur because the word wasn't in use when they were around.) What's also very apparent in a section on history and philosophy of science is why so many scientists are dubious of philosophers and historians of science. When an adult can seriously suggest that we can't say that current science is better than that of the Romans - all we can say, suggest these philosophers and historians of science, is that our science is different - it makes it very clear that some academics have spent far too much time in ivory towers examining their philosophical navels and really haven't got a clue about the real world. We then get into the main content of the gradual process of science, in the current sense of the word, coming into being. It's certainly interesting in a dry way to see this analytically dissected, though the slightly tedious nature of the exposition makes it clear why popular science has to simplify and concentrate on the narrative if readers are to be kept on track. I appreciate that an academic like David Wootton wants to ensure that every i is dotted and t crossed, but I think that all the arguments of this book could have been made in half the length by cutting back on some of the detail and repetition. This book, then, is not popular science in the usual sense, but neither is it a textbook. If you are prepared to put the effort in, you will receive huge insights into what lies beneath: one view of the true history of science. That's why the book gets 5 stars. I've learned more about the history of science from this one book than any other five I can think of that I have read in the past. I have to emphasise that 'one view' part, though. History is - well, not an exact science. As far as I can see (I'm not equipped to criticise the content) this is a superbly well researched piece of scientific history, but in the end, the conclusions drawn are down to Wootton and he enjoys making it clear where he is strongly contradicting other historians of science. There's a huge amount to appreciate here. Wootton convincingly demolishes Kuhn's idea that scientific revolutions require heavy disagreements among scientists, showing how exposure to experience (often thanks to new technology, such as the telescope) can swing the argument surprisingly painlessly. And he shows what a remarkable influence words have on the development of science (music to the ear of a writer). Perhaps most remarkable of all is Wootton's careful, very detailed exposition of the idea that the real trigger for 'modern' scientific thought was Columbus's discovery of America, which demolished the existing model of the Earth and made it possible to see how experience can triumph over the philosophical quagmire of authority. If you've a fair amount of time to spare and really want to dig into the way that the scientific revolution came about, I would heartily recommend giving this title a try.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    This book will look, I trust, realist to relativists and relativist to realists: that is how it is meant to look. The Invention of Science isn't an easy book to read. Neither is it particularly difficult, thanks to Wootten's felicitous prose. But it does require a high degree of concentration as Wootten ranges both far and deep in his exploration of how "science" got its start. His argument is intentionally provocative, precise, plainly stated and copiously supported. The writing is lively, witty This book will look, I trust, realist to relativists and relativist to realists: that is how it is meant to look. The Invention of Science isn't an easy book to read. Neither is it particularly difficult, thanks to Wootten's felicitous prose. But it does require a high degree of concentration as Wootten ranges both far and deep in his exploration of how "science" got its start. His argument is intentionally provocative, precise, plainly stated and copiously supported. The writing is lively, witty, even barbed – qualities generally absent in scholarly texts. I also appreciated Wootten's approach to the footnote/endnote conundrum: references are saved for the endnotes to accommodate readers who want to hunt down sources; but comments that amplify the argument are placed at the bottom of the page, to keep the reader in the flow. In addition, he's placed a series of "longer notes" at the end of the book, where his basic arguments are outlined with brio (and more ancillary texts). In Wootten's account, science is essentially "the triumph of experience over philosophy." All the standard characters are there – Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Newton – but also an entertaining, anarchic host of lesser-known scientists, mathematicians, theologians and philosophes, doctors and clergymen. Wootten gives the standard accounts an interesting spin, looking as much at the tools of thought as at the tools of discovery and invention (telescopes, prisms, air pumps). He investigates the history and meaning of words such as discovery, invention, facts, experiments, laws, hypotheses, and even more ordinary and apparently obvious terms such as progress and common sense. Another excellent review on this page found this procedure a problem. I didn't. I was fascinated – although, as I said at the start, one needs a strong cup of coffee and plenty of quiet concentration to make it through a few of these chapters. This is a book that fully lives up to its title. I read it after reading Noam Chomsky's recent lectures – as a kind of luxuriant, deeply satisfying postscript – but that was just to amuse myself.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Subeyr Bashir

    The author did a good job by laying out the historic events that make The Scientific Revolution possible. He did detailed language evolution of what he called 'intellectual tools' of modern science for example: Facts, Discovery, Hypothesis, Theory, Laws of Nature etc. I enjoyed most of language details and comparisons (French, Italian, latin, German) but sometimes i am like: 'come on Prof. Wootton don't go there'. The book is great interest for people that are into the debate of Realism vs. Rela The author did a good job by laying out the historic events that make The Scientific Revolution possible. He did detailed language evolution of what he called 'intellectual tools' of modern science for example: Facts, Discovery, Hypothesis, Theory, Laws of Nature etc. I enjoyed most of language details and comparisons (French, Italian, latin, German) but sometimes i am like: 'come on Prof. Wootton don't go there'. The book is great interest for people that are into the debate of Realism vs. Relativism in the field of understanding 'history of science'. The author is neither realist nor relativist he is some what between and calls himself constructivist. He criticised relativists a lot more than realists in this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    HIGHLY recommended for science nerds! This is a sweeping summary, very well sourced and noted, of the basic idea + repercussions of the Scientific Revolution. Here's the whole glorious thing summarized in a perfect little quote: "A basic description of the Scientific Revolution is to say that it represented a successful rebellion by the mathematicians against the authority of the philosophers, and of both against the authority of the theologians." Well, obviously there's more to it than that, but HIGHLY recommended for science nerds! This is a sweeping summary, very well sourced and noted, of the basic idea + repercussions of the Scientific Revolution. Here's the whole glorious thing summarized in a perfect little quote: "A basic description of the Scientific Revolution is to say that it represented a successful rebellion by the mathematicians against the authority of the philosophers, and of both against the authority of the theologians." Well, obviously there's more to it than that, but you'll just have to RAFO. I wrote an unreasonably long, rambling review that you can read HERE, if you're into that sort of thing. This review is based on an e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss. Even though the book is apparently already out in the UK, it isn't released in the US until December.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cindy G.

    I am not really qualified to critique the content of this book, but I will comment for other readers like me who enjoy history of science as amateurs. This is clearly a scholarly work, however I only felt that about 10% of it was above my head (e.g. using historian/philosophy jargon that I needed to either look up or just skip over. Having had one college course discussing Kuhn helped me.) It is a long book, and having made the effort to read it I now regret not having taken a few notes, as ther I am not really qualified to critique the content of this book, but I will comment for other readers like me who enjoy history of science as amateurs. This is clearly a scholarly work, however I only felt that about 10% of it was above my head (e.g. using historian/philosophy jargon that I needed to either look up or just skip over. Having had one college course discussing Kuhn helped me.) It is a long book, and having made the effort to read it I now regret not having taken a few notes, as there were many "hmmm, very interesting!" moments that changed my basic understanding of an aspect of history. (The whole thing about beliefs about the shape of the Earth was way more fascinating than the cartoonish impression I think many people retain after school.) Wootton's basic thesis is that a series of inventions, discoveries, and new ideas mostly within the 16th-17th centuries were necessary game-changers for real science as we know it to develop. He makes quite a thorough case for each point, though I have seen other published reviews aren't quite convinced these developments aren't just part of a more continuous arc of history. Despite wishing it was a bit shorter, I'm glad I read this. Whether or not his thesis is important to the average person, all the discussions were worthwhile updates to my understanding of western history. - An added note: Wootton's thesis was way more convincing to me than that of "The Swerve" by Greenblatt. That (shorter) book was definitely an enjoyable read, but, again, as an amateur, I was not convinced by its grand claims about Lucretius.

  11. 4 out of 5

    William

    I have a undergrad degree in Chemistry, and yet I felt inadequate in trying to keep up with the way the info was delivered. Maybe the chaos coming from a very busy mind of the author?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bart Jr.

    The Invention of Science is a very wise and erudite volume about the essential changes that were necessary for modern science, i.e. the Scientific Revolution, to occur in the 16th century. These included more efficient ways to disseminate information, such as the printing press, which also aided in building a scientific community; the turn toward both practical experiment and mathematics; the development of the very ideas of progress and discovery; and the way changes in scientific theories, and The Invention of Science is a very wise and erudite volume about the essential changes that were necessary for modern science, i.e. the Scientific Revolution, to occur in the 16th century. These included more efficient ways to disseminate information, such as the printing press, which also aided in building a scientific community; the turn toward both practical experiment and mathematics; the development of the very ideas of progress and discovery; and the way changes in scientific theories, and modern science itself, often required new concepts and language. The author offers prime examples such as the development of the concepts of fact, theory, progress, experiment, law, discovery, etc. This volume is steeped in meticulous historical detail of the scientific figures and times of the 16th and 17th century. A marvelous work of research and scholarship. If you’re interested in increasing your awareness of many of the important concepts which have shaped our modern science and thought, this book is for you. Readers whose interest is piqued by this subject would likely enjoy Conceptual Revolutions by Paul Thagard, which also goes into great detail concerning the role conceptual changes played in specific, important theories of science. The Invention of Science has my highest recommendation; I would give it 6 stars, if I could.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    The workings of science are almost entirely naturalized. For us, it seems natural that scientists discover facts about the natural universe, and that they do so by formulating hypotheses and designing experiments to test those hypotheses. But to someone in the in the 15th century, this process was entirely alien. Wootton aims to discuss the scientific revolution, the period between Tycho's Nova of 1572 and the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687, where science became an accepted mode of kn The workings of science are almost entirely naturalized. For us, it seems natural that scientists discover facts about the natural universe, and that they do so by formulating hypotheses and designing experiments to test those hypotheses. But to someone in the in the 15th century, this process was entirely alien. Wootton aims to discuss the scientific revolution, the period between Tycho's Nova of 1572 and the publication of Newton's Principia in 1687, where science became an accepted mode of knowledge. But the real objective is a broadside against a school of scholarship which has wrecked proper history of science, namely David Bloor's Strong Programme, and an undue relativism in history of science, with it's origins in Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift theory of scientific revolutions. This book is at its best in discussing the world of knowledge prior to the scientific revolution. I was entirely unaware of the controversy about the location of the sphere of land and the sphere of water in Aristotelian physics, or the belief that the oceans were literally above dry land, as preserved in the phrase 'high seas'. There's a lot of good linguistic explanation of the origins and usages of words like experiment, fact, and discovery. Wootton's argument is that the discovery and exploitation of the New World provided the initial crack in the armor of scholastic Aristotelian knowledge, since the Americas were so obviously there and the ancients had said nothing about them. An interesting graph of sales of a popular Ptolemaic astronomy textbook shows a dip in sales in the 1570s, since a nova cannot be explained in a universe of divine spheres, and then a collapse with Galileo's discover of the moons of Jupiter and phases of Venus around 1608. The old knowledge was dead. But how did the new knowledge arise? Here, Wootton is sadly less detailed, talking a little about the various uses of Torricelli's experiment. And of course, the printing press played a key role in bringing down the price of books and allowing precise copies of complex technical diagrams, something scribes were hopeless at reproducing accurately. But where there should be evidence, there is mostly invective against postmodern relativists. Now I'll admit that I'm part of the science and technology studies tradition Wootton rails against. He's right that the Strong Programme is often poorly used, and that relativism misses the key ability of science to accurately describe the natural world. Yet, even a sophisticated realism has trouble getting out of the recursive trap that 'successful science accurately describes the natural world, which we know because of successful science, which has been shown to accurately describe the natural world, etc". There were experimenters prior to Galileo, but as Wootton discusses, their discoveries died, because they did not exist in a social context which allowed for scientific discovery.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Good book on the science revolution of the 17 and 18 centuries…the ground is pretty well covered on that topic, but this book does bring some fresh perspective. The writing is good for the most part, though it sometimes goes into a mass od detail when it could have been more concise. The arguments about what the revolution was are clearly laid out by topic and section and are free from repetition. In short, this book exceeded my expectations quite a bit. So, I give this one a 5. The book makes a Good book on the science revolution of the 17 and 18 centuries…the ground is pretty well covered on that topic, but this book does bring some fresh perspective. The writing is good for the most part, though it sometimes goes into a mass od detail when it could have been more concise. The arguments about what the revolution was are clearly laid out by topic and section and are free from repetition. In short, this book exceeded my expectations quite a bit. So, I give this one a 5. The book makes an interesting argument and is well written for the most part. The argument is easy to follow and the material streamlined. Well worth the read if you’re interested in the history of science.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Taylor

    Very granular at times but necessary to lay the groundwork for the language and fundamental understandings required to define and describe science at its origin.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jani-Petri

    I did not in the end have the patience to finnish this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    Wootton claims there are two major philosophical camps among those who write about the history of science. He calls them the 'realists' and the 'relativists'. The realists regard science as essentially a formalized application of human common sense. To them, science is a systematic method of asking questions about the natural world, which leads to reasonably accurate answers. As these answers build upon one another, collective human understanding grows. It's almost inevitable. Relativists, on th Wootton claims there are two major philosophical camps among those who write about the history of science. He calls them the 'realists' and the 'relativists'. The realists regard science as essentially a formalized application of human common sense. To them, science is a systematic method of asking questions about the natural world, which leads to reasonably accurate answers. As these answers build upon one another, collective human understanding grows. It's almost inevitable. Relativists, on the other hand, see science as an aspect of human culture. Both the questions it asks and the answers it finds are culturally dependent, so it never obtains any objective knowledge and consequently cannot progress in the sense that it gets us closer to a true understanding of what the world actually is or how it works. Instead, it creates stories about the world that work for a particular culture at a particular time. Relativism, he claims, "has been the dominant position in the history of science" for some time (Pg. 117). (This seems odd to me since, of the two extremes, relativism seems the most absurd, but that's what he says. Since he's the expert and I'm not, I'm sadly willing to entertain the idea that he may be right about this.) Wootton sees some merit in both of these perspectives, and this book is his attempt to reconcile them. His self-appointed task can be summarized in these quotes that appear near the end of the book: The task, in other words, is to understand how reliable knowledge and scientific progress can and do result from a flawed, profoundly contingent, culturally relative, all-too-human process. (pg. 541) Hence the need for an historical epistemology which allows us to make sense of the ways in which we interact with the physical world (and each other) in the pursuit of knowledge. The central task of such an epistemology is not to explain why we have been successful in our pursuit of scientific knowledge; there is no good answer to that question. Rather it is to track the evolutionary process by which success has been built upon success; that way we can come to understand that science works, and how it works. (Pg. 543) And this is what he does in an extensively researched and exhaustively documented account of the development and evolution of science. The way of thinking, which we now call science, truly was new and revolutionary. It emerged primarily in Western Europe between the times of Columbus and Newton. Wootton doesn't claim a single igniting spark, but he gives Columbus's voyage in 1492 credit for providing a powerful challenge to the prevailing belief that the ancients had known everything worth knowing. Although Columbus himself never accepted that the land he found by traveling west from Spain was a previously unknown continent, others soon came to this realization, and it showed that the authority of Ptolemy, Aristotle, and Holy Scripture were not as absolute as people believed. Here was an entirely new world, with strange animals, plants, and people, which the respected and authoritative ancients had known nothing about. Possibly just as significant was that the existence of these two huge continents was not found through philosophical reflection or by divine revelation. This new land was 'discovered' by a bunch of scruffy sailors—commoners! From here, he explains that these emerging ideas added new words and new (and modern) definitions to old words, such as 'discovery', 'fact', 'experiment', 'objectivity', and 'evidence'. These all have their current meanings because of the scientific way of viewing the world that emerged between the 16th and 18th centuries. (Personally, I think his discussion of the word 'evidence' goes into more detail and greater length than needed to make his point, but for those in academia, it may be helpful). He also shows how culture influenced the development of scientific thinking. More often than not, the culture of this time hindered rather than helped. Prior to the scientific revolution, philosophical disputes were decided through clever rhetoric, creative verbal arguments, and appeals to tradition and authority. Because of this, early practitioners of science felt it necessary to justify themselves by citing the works of long-dead philosophers like Epicurus, Democritus, and Lucretius. Although none had the authority of Aristotle, they were ancient, which implied a certain respectability. The new scientific way of thinking, on the other hand, "sought to resolve intellectual disputes through experimentation." (pg. 562) I am more of an interested observer of science than I am a practitioner, but I have to admit that the realist view seems far closer to the truth to me than does the relativist concept. It is undeniable that science is done by scientists, that scientists are people, and that people are shaped by the cultures in which they live. But modern science originally began by challenging the assumptions of the culture in which it first emerged, and it retains that aspect of cultural skepticism to this day. I suspect that many current scientists are motivated, at least in part, by the dream of possibly overturning a prevailing theory or showing that it is somehow flawed or incomplete. In the 17th century, challenging cultural assumptions could bring a long, uncomfortable visit with inquisitors followed by a short, hot time tied to a stake. Today, it can bring a scientist fame and fortune. Scientific progress isn't inevitable, but it can and does reveal culturally independent facts. Scientists are products of their cultures, but the process of science intentionally strives to put those cultural assumptions aside. It may be the only human activity that does so.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Skjam!

    At the beginning of the Fifteenth Century, there were no scientists as we understand the term, and no science. Received wisdom from Aristotle and Galen ruled knowledge and philosophy. Then a series of changes in technology and the way people investigated nature brought a new way of thinking. By the end of the Seventeenth Century there were scientists, an intellectual community of people who had created a process we call “science.” This book covers the history of those centuries, and how the Scien At the beginning of the Fifteenth Century, there were no scientists as we understand the term, and no science. Received wisdom from Aristotle and Galen ruled knowledge and philosophy. Then a series of changes in technology and the way people investigated nature brought a new way of thinking. By the end of the Seventeenth Century there were scientists, an intellectual community of people who had created a process we call “science.” This book covers the history of those centuries, and how the Scientific Revolution began. David Wootton is a professor of Intellectual History at the University of London and an Anniversary Professor at the University of York, and the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries are part of his focus. There were, according to this book, several contributing factors to the Scientific Revolution. The printing press allowed ideas to be widely spread and preserved for long times. Perspective drawing allowed more accurate pictures to be published–you could build something from plans! The telescope and microscope opened up new worlds to human vision. Readily available compasses improved navigation. Plus of course, the “discovery” of America showing there were entire landmasses unknown to the ancient philosophers, and a nova in 1572 that revealed the heavens were not fixed and unchangeable as Aristotle had decreed. The old answers no longer satisfied, and people began methodically testing to see what actually happened when, for example, you floated ice in water. It wasn’t an overnight change; several of the pieces took a while before their true significance or usefulness was understood. At first, much of it was simply mathematicians applying their skills to astronomy or ballistics. But over time, the changes accelerated, so that by the time of Isaac Newton, what he did with refraction of light was clearly the scientific method. This is a college level text, with copious footnotes and end notes, bibliography and index. Professor Wootton spends a great deal of time tracking down earliest uses of various words used for science in a science-related context, like “fact” and “hypothesis.” This can get tedious, but he’s trying to show how the new way of thinking had to adapt and invent vocabulary for ideas that simply didn’t exist in that form before. Thankfully, there are also illustrations throughout, and a center section of color plates. The author also has a section devoted to calling out historians he disagrees with, primarily relativists. Apparently, there is a school of thought that science is effectively a group delusion, with more socially prominent or connected scientists imposing their views on their colleagues. Creationism is just as good science as evolution, it would seem. The author claims that there are such things as theories that don’t stand up to facts. I am not educated enough to evaluate his conclusions or his description of other historical philosophies; he may have misrepresented them. Recommended primarily for history students and science buffs. The casual reader would probably be better off with biographies of the various individual people involved, many of whom led interesting lives that are barely touched on in this volume. (Women and non-Europeans who helped advance the cause of science are barely mentioned, mostly to say they existed.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Early errors bring book's reliability into question One clear early error? The claim that Newton himself couldn't have used the word "revolution" in talking about his science. Erm, I didn't need Google to tell me about the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688 in Newton's Britain — so-called **at that time.** (Google did tell me that this was apparently the first use of the word "revolution" in English.) And, the author is himself British — he definitely should know that. But, but ... that was after Newton Early errors bring book's reliability into question One clear early error? The claim that Newton himself couldn't have used the word "revolution" in talking about his science. Erm, I didn't need Google to tell me about the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688 in Newton's Britain — so-called **at that time.** (Google did tell me that this was apparently the first use of the word "revolution" in English.) And, the author is himself British — he definitely should know that. But, but ... that was after Newton's annus mirabilis of 1666, right? Well, there was no such "annus mirabilis" for Newton, first. Second, even if there were, the Glorious Revolution was well before the publishing of his Opticks. Speaking of myths, yes, authors don't write the material on dust jackets. That said, the dust jacket repeats the old chestnuts about Bruno and Galileo being martyrs to science. The story is more complicated than that, at best, for Galileo, and totally untrue for Bruno, who was executed as a theological heretic. (This dust cover had me approaching the book skeptically even before I cracked the spine. Add in that the author takes a seemingly simplistic view of Wittgenstein and post-Wittgensteinian schools of philosophical thought and their relation to Continental philosophy, and then its relation to modern science, and Wootton's writing has other questions raised. Add in what others say about dense style and other things, and per the comments above and more, some of the density being fluff, and no, this is not an earthshaking book. The sound basic ideas in this book could have been written in a more direct style in at least 100 fewer pages.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ross

    I had hopes this book was about the invention of science, in part because I was trained and worked as a scientist. Alas, the book turned out to be about the philosophy of the history of the history of science. Most of the book was about the origin of words needed to understand science. For example the author spent about 75 pages on the word "fact." He pointed out that before 1650 there was no such word because the western world had no such concept of a scientific fact. With the beginning of expe I had hopes this book was about the invention of science, in part because I was trained and worked as a scientist. Alas, the book turned out to be about the philosophy of the history of the history of science. Most of the book was about the origin of words needed to understand science. For example the author spent about 75 pages on the word "fact." He pointed out that before 1650 there was no such word because the western world had no such concept of a scientific fact. With the beginning of experiments in the 17th century, which was the invention of science, they finally needed a word to refer to a scientific fact established by an experiment. OK, interesting, but 75 pages: give me a break. The reason the invention didn't occur until the 17th century is that there was no need. Aristotle had explained every thing. For example Aristotle opined the obvious that heavy bodies fall faster than light bodies. Do you think Aristotle could have taken 5 minutes to see if that was true, which of course it wasn't. So for almost 2,000 years the world was perfectly happy with Aristotle's reams of nonsense. Bottom line, not recommended for anyone except philosophers of the history of science.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Grace

    There was some really good stuff in here, most notably discussion about how the language of science evolved (evidence, proof, theory, hypothesis, experiential and then experimental, etc.) and developed along with the new ways of thinking and looking at the world. However, this is SUCH a dry, academic read that I could only take it in small doses. A convoluted and tortuous writing style plus constant bickering with the views of rival science historians reminded me of a crazy professor out mowing There was some really good stuff in here, most notably discussion about how the language of science evolved (evidence, proof, theory, hypothesis, experiential and then experimental, etc.) and developed along with the new ways of thinking and looking at the world. However, this is SUCH a dry, academic read that I could only take it in small doses. A convoluted and tortuous writing style plus constant bickering with the views of rival science historians reminded me of a crazy professor out mowing his lawn, rehashing arguments with his adversaries except THIS time he bests them every time... I wish he had just told the story of the invention of science, as promised by the book title. A more accurate title for what actually lies between the covers of this book would be "My Fellow Historians Are All Stupid: An Attack On Other Scholars' Views of Science History."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Xin

    This book is very heavy on the historical, philosophical, anthropological, even linguistic aspects of the “history” of sciences, yet without solid understanding of the sciences beneath those tumultuous changes and the mathematics that linking them together. It’s more of a general history book by a historian not a scientific book about the true history, essence, and beginning of science. A complete joke and waste of time. Don’t read it if you are truly interested in the beginning of sciences.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ibraheem

    help me please . i love this book but i want to read it in arabic . is there an arabic copy of this book ?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cleokatra

    This was a long, tough read for me. I'm a scientist, but I don't read much science history. The book is beautifully written and well researched, so 4 stars. This was a long, tough read for me. I'm a scientist, but I don't read much science history. The book is beautifully written and well researched, so 4 stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maggie Roessler

    There's a zombie haunting this book, a dead horse made of straw. Its name is Relativist and it thinks that "reality does not constrain the beliefs we can hold about the real world" (p. 517). The only problem is, no human, flesh n blood relativist actually defines relativism in this (sloppy, nonsensical) way. Wootton's arguments are tediously uncharitable - to kill a straw man, all you need's a dull sword. The purported triumph of his daringly reasonable stance between naïve realism and relativis There's a zombie haunting this book, a dead horse made of straw. Its name is Relativist and it thinks that "reality does not constrain the beliefs we can hold about the real world" (p. 517). The only problem is, no human, flesh n blood relativist actually defines relativism in this (sloppy, nonsensical) way. Wootton's arguments are tediously uncharitable - to kill a straw man, all you need's a dull sword. The purported triumph of his daringly reasonable stance between naïve realism and relativism is as boring as it is superficial. To take one example in a smidgin more depth: the Strong Programme's method of investigating the causes of false and true beliefs in the same way doesn't stop you from noticing when evidence plays a role in why we accept true beliefs. According to the symmetry principal, we can recognize that reality does constrain true beliefs, as long as we are ready to see that it constrains false beliefs too. Which Wootton must accept, since he considers the triumph of modern science to be its recognition that most of its theories are probably false. "Science offers reliable knowledge (that is, reliable prediction and control), not truth" (p. 570). Ergo knowledge needn't be true! "We make progress, but unlike those who go hawking and hunting, we may never catch our prey" (p. 398). So what is scientific progress, if not a piling up of truths? Progress, for Wootton, is ever greater powers of prediction and control. The real relativist question here, I'd contend, is whether prediction and control is good per se, or just good relative to the culture of science. But piercing that thicket would require peering beyond the world of white European men for half a sec, which is something Wootton is not prepared to do. Although! He does speak of "Women" four whole times, according to the index. In the final instance he goes so far as to admit that some books written to explain science to women ("the seeming obsession with the education of ladies") were actually read by women - "the female audience was more than fictional" (p. 474). Gee. Oh and "the true length of human history" starts with written records, which means an awful lot of tribes were languishing in pre-history until colonialists were kind enough to swing by and discover them. But this is just garden-variety, racist, patriarchal bullshit. What's interesting and worthwhile in Wootton doesn't concern the transition of pre-history to history, but rather the move from "cyclical time" to "linear time" with the scientific revolution as the decisive split. In cyclical time: - there is no discovery, only exploration or interpretation - knowledge is deductive and Aristotle is the ultimate authority - Scientists (including Newton) assume everything big was known by ancients - Plants and animals have symbolic meanings - Land is named after saints and kings - Curiosity is a vice In linear time: - DISCOVERY! is a whole thing - Knowledge is empirical and experience is the ultimate authority - Scientists fight over priority and name things after themselves - New plants and animals are just new (ant eater, opossum have no symbolic meaning) - Land is named after common sailors - Curiosity is a virtue Once upon a time, not so long ago, we thought the universe was nested spheres. Earth surrounded by water, water surrounded by air, and air surrounded by fire. The center of the earth was the center of the universe. It wasn't that simple. God is not sterile. God gathered the water to make dry land, where all the elements interact. But then where was the center of water? Had the earth distorted its shape, growing or shriveling its geometrical center away from the center of gravity? How did these two spheres, of water and of earth, interact? Columbus thought that water protruded from earth like a breast and that the nipple held terrestrial paradise. No, it must have been aquatic paradise. Then, in 1503, Vespucci published Mundus Novus. The women of the antipodes have no scales. They light fires and feed their children meat. Alas, our planet is a single globe, terraqueous, a theatrum orbis terrarium, there's no diving off this stage. "The new facts were killer facts" (p. 136). New, sexy, avant garde, the ancients never heard of this. Now Copernicus was ready, in 1543, to calculate the earth spinning round the center. In 1576 Thomas Digges was the first to print the stars not in a sphere, but "scattered over the outer margins of the page until they disappeared" (p. 155). Giordano Bruno dreamed of other worlds, of "creatures on the sun, quite different from ourselves, who thrive on heat" (p. 147). In 1592 he was subject to eight full years of solitary confinement and burned alive on 17 of February, 1600 in a square in Rome. He said our planet shone from afar like a moon. So our enlightenment proceeds. So our flames consume us. We have no more nested spheres. No center. Infinite, cornerless, shining. *** Another precondition for science, besides the invention of discovery and the discovery of America was double-entry bookkeeping. "Bookkeeping turns everything into a notional cash value" (p. 164). When a partnership's dissolved, there's no endless back n forth of spats and slaps and tears and slaughtered pigs. There's a split of cash and basta, see ya at the pub next week asshole. We have turned the world into math. It started with merchants, then seeped into visual art. The invention of perspective painting (early 1400s) placed the painter's eye at the centric point. "Even when art is at its most objective (or rather especially when art is at its most objective), we make it and we find ourselves in it" (p. 166). Precision spurns the group. A firm grasp of what is true needs one firm hand to grasp it. This is why NGOs love youth. We snatch boys and girls at their peak of haughty individualism, too old to fear their parents, too young to love their kids. They are ready to jilt the system and draw their own lives, aiming towards the infinite point on the horizon that only they can see. *** Math infects. There are the shapes you see, and then there is geometry. A 17th century chair is frilly and swoopy and lush. But Father Niceron's demonstration on how to draw a chair in his 1652 Curious Perspective is Bauhaus pur. The artist does not see the chair before him. He sees an abstraction. Labelled, clean, unfit for any ass. It is an ideal chair. It is not a chair. You: Finite nested spheres Me: The vanishing point "often hidden by a seemingly casually placed foot or a bit of drapery - the lurking presence of the infinite" (p. 177) The new vision doesn't stop at bookkeeping and art. We want POWER. Brahe illustrates instruments that tell us how to read the sky in 1602. Vesalius employs Venetians to engrave dissected body parts - On the Fabric of the Human Body, 1543. Before Vesalius, they'd cut cadavers open while reading Galen aloud (p. 183). Now they print and distribute their idealized man-bit pics. Progress. Anatomy becomes a progressive science as thirsty up-and-comings kill their fathers(' theories). Hip hip hooray. To fully conquer and colonize the world, you have to prove dominion of the body. The body is a landscape seething with native bafflement and scorn. The dead white men see it, scale it, draw it, print it, use it to launch their careers. Like Falloppio and Colombo fighting over which of them discovered the clitoris in 1561. What Wootton's most jazzed about is how the new vision helped Regio Montanus work out how to measure parallaxes, which show how far a "heavenly body" is from earth. His instrument was promptly wrongly used to show that comets are sublunary. But then the nova appeared in 1572 and a comet in 1577 and Brahe's measurements placed them farther than the moon, indisputably refuting Aristotle's doctrine that nothing supralunary can change. Except for all those who disputed it. Brahe miscalculated the thickness of sunlight and concluded that the sun revolves around the earth. Galileo argued that comets were reflections or refractions, like rainbows. Other astronomers measured differently, in ways that vindicated the nested spheres, not his new "sun, moon, and stars float freely like fish in the sea" hypothesis. But no matter, we got there in the end, even if Wootton's killer fact was more of a slow-acting poison than a flung dagger. It doesn't really affect his argument, just dampens his hollow polemic. Onward! *** 1608 - invention of the telescope and the microscope The Scaling Revolution happened in one direction only. Enter the telescope and lo, we are very small and fuck our eyes are bad and this world was not made for us not even a little not at all. Galileo saw that Venus had phases from crescent to full and poof Ptolemy is done. "The Mother of Love imitates Cynthia." She orbits the sun. Odo van Maelcote announced it at a party on 18 May 1610 and boom, killer fact, no one can dare to doubt that the planets, sun, and moon revolve around the earth. Textbook men stop printing Sacrobosco's Sphere. Everyone starts writing and devouring science fiction to trigger that disorienting vertigo of insignificance. Meanwhile, no one's really bothered by the microscope. It launches no analogous uproar. Wootton says it's because this other new world was "previously unknown; it was hard to establish how the new information it produced related to established knowledge" (p. 216). If your game's too new, no one wants to play it. They like a couple bent rules, extensions, reversals. Genuine novelty is boring. Killer facts need victims. So Antonie van Leewenhock is not a hero for being the first, in 1676, to see a living creature invisible to the naked eye. No one writes the biography of the man who explored the genitalia of a louse, discovering its sperm. There may be other reasons too, why the microscope ignited little passion. The very vast inspires awe, the miniscule disgust. We cultivate noble hatred for the squirming, the repetitive, the senseless suck of life. We'd rather be infants again than gods. Or my pet theory - that the true revolution of the small-to-infinite, the shock of snowflakes turned to stars, cannot be won through the eyes. There are other forces - other vectors of change - playing out in the subsubsubcomponents of a fraction of an atom. They evade light, too little to be splashed by waves of color. So little they evade time and space, they flit and play in utterly unknown dramas, tiny tiny, all in and around our gallumphing scale. There are pantheons within my pinky toe. My pets. With them I duck, I flee these facts and their establishment - found, made, and decreed. Before facts, we only had Aristotle's endoxa, which are mere phenomena, or else logic. So goes Wootton's tale. His facts are true statements describing empirical reality, not metaphysically necessary truths of logic. I can't buy that this concept was invented during the 1600s. What about Socrates' orthos doxa for which one can provide a logos? Our ancestors said they knew things about the material world, save the odd skeptic or solipsist, so why shouldn't those be facts? What changed is their quantification and distribution. A mob can be summoned, called The Facts, and deployed against spongier ideas. Wootton's trying to be cool & radical, but it flops. Latour gets closer in talking of hardness and softness. The book made experience a fixture of polite society. The untold story here is - facts were new for who? When a meteorite fell at Lucé, Pays de la Loire in 1758, only peasants saw it. The members of the Royal Academy of Science, including Lavoisier, concluded that they were ridiculous. But in 1794 a meteorite explodes over academics and noblemen in Siena and it is less "strange" to imagine they fell from the sky. The softness of unreplicated facts is the softness of a woman's waist. Strange facts aspire to be plain and plainness is won through public replication. But who has the money and time to replicate and whose eyes count as public? *** Now we have a new revolution. We've gone from pre-print to print to post-print. From the 14 to 16 hundreds "the increase in the sheer quantity of available information [was] sufficient to generate a cultural revolution" (p. 306). Testimony became the respectable foundation of science. For the first time, living white men of leisure could communicate in immutable, non-degrading units with other white men of leisure. Authority cracked and tumbled. The living overcame the dead. The living white men of leisure used this power to quantify the skies, to label body parts, to add up deaths per year and price life insurance. And we? *** Wootton's point about experiments is that they're not new to modern science. Men proofed their theories before, but their findings didn't rattle anyone's frames. The axel that spun the revolution was the critical groups of men who read and replicated one another's observations. A scientific network, publishing, writing semi-public letters, using urine bottles and teams of horses to pump nature for information, torture her till she speaks. The inquisition lends itself to battle. A merry chap strikes the heart of his brother's theory, the death knell sounds, the enemy defeated, and voila, scientific progress. I have no close-knit community of experts. My friends do not "vex nature," they extend her, play with her, chug her bounty, bind their wrists and swing from the hook of her. Our experiences do not qualify as experiments. Our artifices do not blindly mimic or expose. We do not lasso rainbows and fling them through urine bottles. We do not master; we do not win. *** Laws. Descartes made 'em trendy, though his version didn't stick. For him, a law is universal, no, polyuniversal, it has to hold for any universe whatever. Because laws are God's and there's just the one God for all our teeming variety. We loosened up since then, and take any absolute regularity as a proper law. Though the God question remains unsolved. Does God will every single lawful instance? That's occasionalism, tied to voluntarism, which is that God chose the laws. One alternative is rationalism - the laws are necessary, even to God. But no one's buyin any of that in today's market. So? What is a law? This is history, not philosophy, so I still don't know. "Quantum in se est," Lucretius wrote. As much as in it lies. My laws are unfurled from divine essences, but there's no divine will guiding the ropes. We co-create by playing the notes of existence like a song. The melody is the law, we riff and modulate. There's no hard breaks. Each change is music only in relation to its harmony or dissonance with what came before. Quantum in se est.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel1974nlgmail.com

    Although very informative. The book sometimes comes across as a bit all over the shop as the book treats with different subjects. It is not as the cover of the book states A new History Of The Scientific Revolution, which what I was actually looking for. It is obvious the author knows his stuff and is widely read, but I expected something different.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nilesh

    The Invention of Science, a scholarly work, is written for a purpose quite different from the understanding it provides to most readers who are not experts in the field. The author is a master of the field. Many of his arguments are counterpoints to positions taken by other renowned experts. These may be critical but subtleties are going to be beyond the comprehension of the rest. The enormous amount of details provided could be important for those in the field, but lay readers do not have the ad The Invention of Science, a scholarly work, is written for a purpose quite different from the understanding it provides to most readers who are not experts in the field. The author is a master of the field. Many of his arguments are counterpoints to positions taken by other renowned experts. These may be critical but subtleties are going to be beyond the comprehension of the rest. The enormous amount of details provided could be important for those in the field, but lay readers do not have the advantage of the supporting evidence or criticisms used by those being countered. As a result, the details get overwhelming every so often through the book. Yet, the book is a fascinating work. To explain its unintended utility, let me use the example of an era our generation knows - information revolution. The similarities are definitely not precise - for example, meaningful developments were over a span of decades and centuries during what is later defined as the scientific revolution era while for us major innovation leaps happened in months and years. Still, such an example would help. Say, a later day historian is writing a book called The Invention of Digitization, language of the time - which could freely include the words like apps, browsing/search, GPUs or cloud - can fully explain the the zig-zag path through which 8084 processors, floppy disks, FTPs, GUIs, modems etc this world evolved. What Galileo, Columbus and all the discoverers of those eras did was quite different not only from their viewpoints but also from ours. Of course, they told us about gravity and showed the way to America but they discovered "discovery". They started multiple new paths of inquiry and processes that have shaped our sciences, learning and technology ever since. What constitutes a theory or a hypothesis, the roles played by evidences, the importance of facts, the falsifiability and accumulation of rational knowledge - these are some of a large number of topics discussed in a fascinating way in this book. This is not an easy book. So many arguments would appear overly pedantic for non-experts. Or simply a gibberish intended for another expert in the field who is not in agreement. Yet, for the patient, the book throws flashlight on the times that sparked something immense for the humanity, and mostly in the language or methods of that time rather than those of the later days.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sam Eccleston

    The most apposite description of this work is encapsulated in one word: 'thorough'. Like most thoroughly researched works it is lengthy, but not, in this case, at the detriment of readability. Throughout the work Wooton presents the results of an extremely detailed historical investigation into seemingly every salient aspect of the cultural, linguistic, institutional, conceptual, and technological changes which facilitated and inspired the scientific revolution. The combination of his exhaustive The most apposite description of this work is encapsulated in one word: 'thorough'. Like most thoroughly researched works it is lengthy, but not, in this case, at the detriment of readability. Throughout the work Wooton presents the results of an extremely detailed historical investigation into seemingly every salient aspect of the cultural, linguistic, institutional, conceptual, and technological changes which facilitated and inspired the scientific revolution. The combination of his exhaustive knowledge of the minutiae of the relevant texts, periods and personalities, and his lucid and powerful conceptual analysis make his occasional broadsides against rival historical theories pretty convincing, particularly those directed against post-modernists and their fellow travelers. What is most convincing about the narrative is how it moves away from the abstract spaces in which academic discussions often occur (even in history) and locates the changes associated with the birth of science in the mess of the world they occurred in- lost texts, false starts, conceptual confusions, forgeries, plagiarism and all. This, above all, lends the 'ring of truth' to Wooton's account which is occasionally lacking in others.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I thought this book was great, but I should start by saying that it's probably not for everyone. Wootton goes into excruciating detail about the history and philosophy of science and even traces the etymology of many scientific words to try and put the attitudes and statements of the early scienticians (scientographers?) into context. I will likely need to re-read this book some time in the future to really understand all the points he is making, because his reasoning is really quite thorough and I thought this book was great, but I should start by saying that it's probably not for everyone. Wootton goes into excruciating detail about the history and philosophy of science and even traces the etymology of many scientific words to try and put the attitudes and statements of the early scienticians (scientographers?) into context. I will likely need to re-read this book some time in the future to really understand all the points he is making, because his reasoning is really quite thorough and deserves additional attention. I think I did not fully understand the compromise position he was staking out between the realists and the relativists - despite the fact that he says that the book will come off as realist to the relativists and relativist to the realists, as an armchair realist I didn't really see much evidence of strong relativist tendancies in his thinking. Either way, it was a measured and reasonable argument (and I am often suspicious of "compromise" positions, since very frequently I find that they are semantic wordgames used to make the person taking the position look more reasonable).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    It took some real work and time to read this book, but it was so rewarding. History, science, philosophy, history of science, philosophy of science -- I learned so much about all of this. Wonderful work about the vocabulary of science, tracing the usage of words such as discovery, invention, evidence, proof, and many others including of course the word 'science" itself. Makes me proud to be a member of the same species as the author and the subjects of the book. It took some real work and time to read this book, but it was so rewarding. History, science, philosophy, history of science, philosophy of science -- I learned so much about all of this. Wonderful work about the vocabulary of science, tracing the usage of words such as discovery, invention, evidence, proof, and many others including of course the word 'science" itself. Makes me proud to be a member of the same species as the author and the subjects of the book.

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