The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theoryby Susan Wise Bauer
A riveting road map to the development of modern scientific thought.In the tradition of her perennial bestseller The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer delivers an accessible, entertaining, and illuminating springboard into the scientific education you never had. Far too often, public discussion of science is carried out by journalists, voters, and politicians who have received their science secondhand. The Story of Western Science shows us the joy and importance of reading groundbreaking science writing for ourselves and guides us back to the masterpieces that have changed the way we think about our world, our cosmos, and ourselves.Able to be referenced individually, or read together as the narrative of Western scientific development, the book's twenty-eight succinct chapters lead readers from the first science texts by Hippocrates, Plato, and Aristotle through twentieth-century classics in biology, physics, and cosmology. The Story of Western Science illuminates everything from mankind's earliest inquiries to the butterfly effect, from the birth of the scientific method to the rise of earth science and the flowering of modern biology.Each chapter recommends one or more classic books and provides entertaining accounts of crucial contributions to science, vivid sketches of the scientist-writers, and clear explanations of the mechanics underlying each concept. The Story of Western Science reveals science to be a dramatic undertaking practiced by some of history's most memorable characters. It reminds us that scientific inquiry is a human pursuitan essential, often deeply personal, sometimes flawed, frequently brilliant way of understanding the world.The Story of Western Science is an "entertaining and unique synthesis" (Times Higher Education), a "fluidly written" narrative that "celebrates the inexorable force of human curiosity" (Wall Street Journal), and a "bright, informative resource for readers seeking to understand science through the eyes of the men and women who shaped its history" (Kirkus).Previously published as The Story of Science.
Bauer (The Well Educated Mind) highlights 36 texts that illustrate the progression of popular scientific thought in the West. The book's Eurocentric worldview cannot be denied: this is not an effort to educate readers about little-known contributors, rather the book is designed to acquaint informed nonspecialists with the greatest editions of classic scientific theories. Each chapter gives the historic context for one to three books by explaining their importance and history. This is followed by the publication information of other editions of the work(s), the ones deemed most accessible by Bauer. Chapters can be read individually but work best in sequence. The organization is mostly chronological, with sections on ancient and early modern works followed by more subject-specific sections (which follow internal chronologies) for geology, biology, and physics. The section on physics is somewhat less tightly connected to the others. Bauer does an especially good job of reminding the reader which biological and geological theories were contemporaries of one another. Helpfully, she notes which parts of the relevant titles readers really need to examine and which can be skipped. A planned companion website will include links to free editions and excerpts from some of the titles. VERDICT Overall, useful to anyone seeking to ground themselves, quickly, in the foundational works of modern science.—Cate Hirschbiel, Iwasaki Lib., Emerson Coll., Boston
The prolific author of the Story of the World series explores the history of science through the prism of key scientific texts.Bauer (Writing and American Literature/Coll. of William and Mary; The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, 2003, etc.) explains that her intention is to trace "the development of great science writing—the essays and books that have most directly affected and changed the course of scientific investigation." The author divides the book in five parts, and she provides a historical context for the texts she recommends and explains the reasons for her choices. Part I, "The Beginnings," looks at the seminal writings on medicine by Hippocrates, as well as Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, and Copernicus, who wrote his groundbreaking Commentariolus in 1514. Bauer compares different translations of the original text and explains their respective merits. In the second part, "The Birth of the Method," the author introduces Newtonian physics, and parts III ("Reading the Earth") and IV ("Reading Life") deal with geology and biology, from earth science to Darwin's theory of natural selection and Crick and Watson's groundbreaking discovery of the structure of DNA. Bauer's recommendations include Watson's The Double Helix and Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. In the final section, "Reading the Cosmos," the author begins with Einstein's theory of relativity and covers works on quantum theory, cosmology, and chaos theory. In addition to guiding inquisitive readers to the original texts that record landmark discoveries, Bauer also seeks to explain "the why" of scientific discovery. The scope of the book makes it susceptible to a certain amount of superficiality—e.g., Bauer's discussion of determinism in the context of chaos theory—but that does not detract from its value. A bright, informative resource for readers seeking to understand science through the eyes of the men and women who shaped its history.
With well-chosen primary documents, biographical sketches, and succinct introductions, this anthology enables great scientists to describe their history-making breakthroughs in their own words. In twenty-eight chapters, editor Susan Wise Bauer (Story of the World; The Well-Trained Mind) has gathered the crème de la crème of scientific thinkers from Hippocrates, Plato and Aristotle to modern-day physicists, biologists, and cosmologists. Science that refreshes.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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- 6.00(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Susan Wise Bauer is the best-selling author of the Story of the World series, The History of the World series, The Well-Trained Mind, and The Well-Educated Mind, among other works. She lives in Virginia.
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