The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention That Changed the Worldby Amir D. Aczel
The arrival of the compass in Europe and an understanding of its potential
Amir D. Aczel, the distinguished science writer, turns detective as he uncovers the fascinating story of the invention of the compass. It's a fabulous tale of Chinese lodestones directing the building of palaces and ancient mariners following the flights of birds to reach their destinations.
The arrival of the compass in Europe and an understanding of its potential revolutionized trade in the Mediterranean and ushered in the great Age of Exploration. Tracking down the roots of the compass and telling the story of navigation through the ages, Aczel instructs and charms as never before.
Amir Aczel is known for his ability to write delightful books about hard topics in math and science. And this is the book he was born to write. Raised on ocean liners by his ship's captain father, the young Aczel stood at the helm and steered ships through the Mediterranean. His experience adds depth and resonance to the telling of this terrific story.
PRAISE FOR THE RIDDLE OF THE COMPASS
"An uncommonly good book about an invention that--there's just no getting around it--changed the world."--Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"A compulsively readable investigation, as attracting as the magnetic north."--Kirkus Reviews
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.72(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.82(d)
Meet the Author
Amir D. Aczel, Ph.D. grew up on a ship and was navigating straits in the Mediterranean long before he could drive a car. The author of Fermat's Last Theorem, God's Equation, The Mystery of the Aleph, and Probability 1, he lives with his wife and daughter in the Boston area and teaches at Bentley College.
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The Riddle of the Compass by Amir Aczel travels through time tracing the invention and impact of the compass. This book conveys the importance of the compass for travel but gets side tracks occasionally and wonders off onto another topic such as the earlier navigational devices, and the controversy over who actually founded the compass. Amir Aczel overall does a good job at explaining the economical boom that the compass creates for nations. Although he gets his points across very well he often repeats the same information over and over between different subjects. Amir cites first-hand accounts of the compass that largely contribute to the evidence of his points. He also tracts the history of many towns and explorers that were affected by the founding of the magnetic compass. Between these accounts Amir was able to fully support the importance of the magnetic compass and its long lasting affect on the world, although these accounts were not tied together very well until the end. Amir Aczel successfully creates a work on the origins and significance of the compass, however the summary connects the long tale in a more intresting and compact way. If I were you I would skip back bone of the book and go right to the meaty part conclusion.
My impression of the Riddle of the Compass: The Invention That Changed the World was that is looks like an interesting book. After I read it, I liked how the author added information about how people used the compass, what was invented before the compass that was similar, how it changed, and other such alluring aspects. The author's purpose was to tell the reader about how the compass was invented from one place to another and how it worked overall. Amir D. Aczel, the author, achieved his purpose. When he was a kid he sailed with his father because he was a captain on a ship. Therefore, he has some insight of what it was like to use the compass from when he was a little kid. Aczel does not write the book until he gets older, but he sailing with his dad is what inspired him to write this book. Aczel achieves his purpose of writing the book because he also does a ton of research in order to go in deep about the information. Thus, I think that Aczel completes his purpose perfectly. I would only recommend this book to people who want more background information on the compass. The Riddle of the Compass does not cover many historical aspects such as empires, social structures, and political and economic philosophies. This book talks more about how people used the compass, modified it, and how it improved over time. It even talks about the magnetic fields of Earth and how the compass used them.
The look of the world changed. For one thing, the prevailing view went from a flat world to a globe as circumnavigation, made possible by the compass, proved that mariners would not fall off the edge. For another, the Age of Exploration expanded global knowledge of foreign places and goods. In short, the compass initiated globalization -- of knowledge, commerce, and genetics. But if you want to find out who invented it and where, read the book!
The compass' invention took place over a long time and it evolved from China to the rest of the world. However, as a device for marine navigation the Amalfi compass was definitely the first major improvement. The author also explains how after the invention of the compass, the creation of the Wind Rose improved navigation even more. The results were better of trade and travel, the beginning of industrialization and the rise of huge empires. If the author's purpose was to educate people about the impact of the compass, then he succeeded. I never knew how much impact the compass had on the world, trade, and travel. The Chinese used it in feng shui. The travels of Marco Polo were affected by the compass and much better sea maps were developed. For a student trying to learn more about this era it would be a waste of time though because it focuses on the compass and doesn't tell us much about politics or economics just how the compass impacted things.
I have a great interest in the progess of how instrumentation came about for navigation. When I opened this book and read the first chapter," I bought it ". The book explains on how the compass came to be with the trials and errors along the way. After reading it, I still have yet to wonder who may have discovered it first. This book is definately an interesting read.
It was the nature of the compass that its invention took place over a long time, from ancient times to the middle ages, and its design evolved from China to the Mediterranean. However, as a reliable device for navigation in the open seas the Amalfi compass was undoubtedly the first major breakthrough. This fascinating story of invention over centuries, in many countries, by mostly unknown inventors and navigators, is told superbly by Arik Aczel in this most readable book. The author also explains briefly how following invention of the compass, the development of the Wind Rose improved navigation even more. The result was world exploration, expansion of trade and travel, the dawn of industrialization and the rise of global empires.