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Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective

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Overview

Seventeenth-century Europe witnessed an extraordinary flowering of discoveries and innovations. This study, beginning with the Dutch-invented telescope of 1608, casts Galileo’s discoveries into a global framework. Although the telescope was soon transmitted to China, Mughal India, and the Ottoman Empire, those civilizations did not respond as Europeans did to the new instrument. In Europe, there was an extraordinary burst of innovations in microscopy, human anatomy, optics, pneumatics, electrical studies, and the science of mechanics. Nearly all of those aided the emergence of Newton’s revolutionary grand synthesis, which unified terrestrial and celestial physics under the law of universal gravitation. That achievement had immense implications for all aspects of modern science, technology, and economic development. The economic implications are set out in the concluding epilogue. All these unique developments suggest why the West experienced a singular scientific and economic ascendancy of at least four centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A magisterial comparative sociology of the relationship between specific social contexts and scientific creativity in seventeenth-century Europe, the Ottoman Empire, Mughal India, and China. With a remarkable eye for detail, Huff elegantly poses the big questions about the past, present, and possible future of modern science in a globalized world.” – Zaheer Baber, University of Toronto

“Using the invention and dispersal of the telescope as a probe, Toby Huff examines the initial impact of this discovery machine in Europe compared with the Ottoman and Mughal empires and Ming China. He then turns to other scientific discoveries of the West and their surprisingly absent influence elsewhere. Huff’s carefully documented research brings this material together in an altogether new way. His fascinating and lucid historico-sociological investigation casts brilliant light on the preeminence of the West today.” – Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

“Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution disseminates genuine information about the crucial role played by the West in the history of science, showing that after many centuries of near scientific inactivity, the West, beginning in the twelfth century, saw the virtue of absorbing science and natural philosophy from Greco-Islamic sources. For the numerous reasons Huff presents, the culture of the West, with its corporations, universities, and other features, made it feasible for science to emerge as a powerful force. Huff presents this entire process in a lucid and engaging manner, using the telescope as the instrument that most vividly reveals the striking differences between Europe and the civilizations of China, the Mughals, and the Ottomans. I believe his book will have a significant impact on the history of science, and on history generally.” – Edward Grant, Indiana University

“This is a well-researched, objectively written, eminently readable book. Anyone interested in any dimension of modern science and technology will find it useful.” – Rajesh Kochhar, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali

"Recommended." -Choice

"...essential reading for all historians of science..." -James Hannam, Quodlibeta

"Toby E. Huff’s project in Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective is to explore what happened after 1500 to trigger this singular convergence and climax." -J. B. Shank, Journal of World History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107000827
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/18/2010
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Toby Huff is a Research Associate at Harvard University in the Department of Astronomy and Chancellor Professor Emeritus in Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He has lectured in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and lived in Malaysia. He is the author of The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2003), co-editor with Wolfgang Schluchter of Max Weber and Islam (1999), and author of An Age of Science and Revolutions, 1600–1800 (2005).

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Table of Contents

Part I. Something New Under the Sun: 1. Introduction: outline of a new perspective; 2. Inventing the discovery machine; 3. The new telescopic evidence; 4. The 'far seeing looking glass' goes to China; 5. 'Galileo's glass' goes to the Muslim world; Part II. Patterns of Education: 6. Three ideals of higher education: Islamic, Chinese, and Western; Part III. Science Unbound: 7. Infectious curiosity I: anatomy and microbiology; 8. Infectious curiosity II: weighing the air and atmospheric pressure; 9. Infectious curiosity III: magnetism and electricity; 10. Prelude to the grand synthesis; 11. The path to the grand synthesis; 12. The scientific revolution in comparative perspective; Epilogue: science, literacy and economic development.

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