Friday, February 19, 2010

God's Philosophers

In a new book of that title, "historian of science James Hannam uncovers the unknown story of medieval scientific discovery, showing how, without the work of medieval 'natural philosophers' (as scientists were then called), there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution" — How modern science was born in the devoutly Christian Middle Ages -- not the skeptical Enlightenment. What the book informs the reader:
  • How spectacles, the mechanical clock and the windmill were all invented in thirteenth century Europe

  • How ideas from the Far East, like printing, gunpowder and the compass were taken further by medieval Europeans than the Chinese had imagined possible

  • The extraordinary leaps in scientific thought made at the universities of Oxford and Paris in the fourteenth century -- including important discoveries about the implications of the earth's rotation and the motion of accelerating objects

  • The myth of Church opposition: How many of the most significant contributors to medieval science became bishops or cardinals

  • How Copernicus's sun-centered universe, Kepler's optics and Galileo's mechanics all owed their inspiration and much of their detail to medieval antecedents

  • How medieval scholars overturned much of the false scientific wisdom inherited from the ancient Greeks

  • The surprising amount a well-educated medieval person would know about "natural philosophy"

  • How the West recovered the lost heritage of ancient Greek learning from Arab and Byzantine sources

  • How St. Thomas Aquinas "Christianized" Greek philosophy, allowing medieval scholars to build on it

  • How new inventions in the late Middle Ages had a profound effect on European society and, thanks to the voyages of Columbus and others, the rest of the world as well
  • How the Renaissance, often associated with the beginning of modernity, saw a surge in magical belief that especially affected those at the cutting edge of science

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hannam & some others have a pretty neat blog:

5:28 AM  
Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


It sounds like an absorbing read! Thanks for the recommendation, Joshua. =)

3:55 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thanks, Anon. You're welcome, Enbrethiliel.

9:06 PM  

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