Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe by John Freely, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe

Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe

by John Freely
     
 

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Histories of modern science often begin with the heroic battle between Galileo and the Catholic Church, which ignited the Scientific Revolution and gave way 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

Overview

Histories of modern science often begin with the heroic battle between Galileo and the Catholic Church, which ignited the Scientific Revolution and gave way 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 exciting discoveries usually credited to Galileo, Newton, Copernicus, and others. In Before Galileo, physicist and historian 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.). (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Medieval scientists are just victims of some bad public relations. Fortunately, Professor John Freely, physicist and book author, is here to set the record straight, in a book called Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe."—Science 2.0
Library Journal
Freely (physics, Bosphorous Univ., Istanbul; Aladdin's Lamp: How Greek Science Came to Europe Through the Islamic World) writes here of the people who sought explanations of happenings in the natural world, as well as the works they wrote about what they found, from roughly 400 BCE to CE 1700. He charts the path of scientific movements among cultures (primarily Christian Europe and the Muslim Mediterranean and Middle East) depending on extant information of historical events and individuals, and the translations thereof. Earlier works on this topic have less breadth, as one would expect, because fewer works survived. However, readers will appreciate Freely's comprehensiveness, particularly when he reaches later periods (e.g., around 1000 CE). Among the small but significant events Freely discusses is how something as relatively simple as understanding and explaining the shape, angle, and colors of rainbows could prompt European science to leap radically forward. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy the history of science.—Michael D. Cramer, Schwarz BioSciences, Research Triangle Park, NC
Kirkus Reviews
A history of science in the centuries before Copernicus, Galileo and Newton. After the Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 and the subsequent burning of the great Library of Alexandria, the ancient Greco-Roman world descended into the darkness of the early Middle Ages, writes historian Freely (Physics/Bosphorous Univ.; Light From the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam Helped to Shape the Western World, 2011, etc.). Yet fragments of classical learning survived in the keeping of a handful of scholars in monasteries. In time, the monastic movement produced the first European scientists, whose work sparked the emergence of modern science. In this revealing but plodding account, Freely traces the transmission of ancient Greek philosophical and scientific works to the Islamic world, where scholars took the lead in science and passed their knowledge on to Europe. In thumbnail portraits, he describes the work of Ibn Sina, Gerard of Cremona and others who conveyed Arab science to the West. By 1500, Europe, with 80 universities, had undergone "a tremendous intellectual revival." Freely charts the advance of that revival, with Albertus Magnus becoming the first to use the modern scientific method based on observation and experimentation, and Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon making full use of the experimental method. In an overview of subsequent, increasingly modern science, Freely describes work on the new science of motion by 14th-century Oxford scientists; Newton's successful explanation of the rainbow in 1714; and the astronomical observations and calculations of Copernicus, which marked the onset of the scientific revolution. For specialists and students.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468306996
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
08/27/2013
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
366,393
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Praise for Before Galileo:

"Valuable . . . introduces us to the monks and friars who kept scientific inquiry alive." --The Wall Street Journal

"Physicist John Freely traces this 'tenuous Ariadne's thread' of learning that unspooled from Egypt through Byzantium and the Islamic world." --Nature

"Freely packs a lot of good stuff into 315 pages and makes the case that modern science in Europe benefited from a thousand years of work leading up to it.  We just have to look past the public relations efforts to find it." --Science 2.0

Meet the Author

John Freely was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. He teaches physics at Bosphorous University in Istanbul. He has written more than forty books, including The Lost Messiah, The Grand Turk, and Aladdin's Lamp.

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