Voyaging in Strange Seas: The Great Revolution in Science

Voyaging in Strange Seas: The Great Revolution in Science

by David Knight

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An ambitious, landmark history of the Scientific Revolution, from the age of Columbus to the age of Cook


An ambitious, landmark history of the Scientific Revolution, from the age of Columbus to the age of Cook

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Knight, eminent historian and philosopher of science, covers the Late Medieval/Early Modern scientific revolution thoroughly, pausing only to correct popular misconceptions, especially those involving the belief that science and religion were always at odds. He places Galileo's trial into its political framework and also cites the religiosity of founders of modern science: Newton, Boyle, and Descartes, among others. "Science was not secular or value-free," as Knight notes, "it meant reading God's Book of Nature." He chronicles successes and failures as the proto-scientists stumbled their way to understanding, such as Anton van Leeuwenhoek's early use of the microscope, and William Harvey's attempts to understand how the heart worked. The book is divided by topic: chemistry, astronomy, medicine, religion, "practical science" (technology), "natural science" (botany, biology, geology), and the establishment of societies to share and expand knowledge. This last laid the foundations for the 18th-century discoveries and inventions that are the basis of contemporary science. By putting the development of empirical science in a social context, Knight reminds readers that nothing happens in a vacuum, nor are humans at the end of discovery. "A good deal of what I was taught… is now seen as erroneous," he states with some pleasure, and one feels that he can't wait to see what comes next. (June)
New York Journal of Books - Donald F. Calbreath
Voyaging in Strange Seas is an excellent source of information about the history of science. Its particular value lies in the extensive coverage of how science has influenced the social and political lives of people and countries.”—Donald F. Calbreath, New York Journal of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A wide swath of scientific developments since the Renaissance era, densely packed and surprisingly accessible. Despite the hints in the title (extracted from a Wordsworth poem), this lively epistemological study by Knight (Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Science/Durham Univ.; Public Understanding of Science, 2006, etc.) is not about sea travel per se, although explorations have fueled plenty of exciting discoveries and inventions throughout the ages, starting with mapping. The author lays out more of a metaphorical voyage into uncharted waters—the awakening of curiosity about the greater world and grasping of new tools and knowledge, which prompted a scientific revolution that Knight compares to a kind of adolescence of man. Once the classical texts that had been cherished by the Arabs began to be translated in monasteries and universities in England and Italy, several important currents converged in the West that fed this revolution in science—e.g., the "bringing down to earth" of lofty (often defective) systems worked out by the ancients—Aristotle, Galen and Ptolemy—the testing of them by new methods (empirical, experimental) and the inductive reasoning as propounded by Francis Bacon. Knight underscores the importance of faith (mostly Christian) in the lives of these early men (and nearly all were men) of science, and hence the need to "accommodate" to biblical thought the new discoveries in astronomy (emerging from astrology), chemistry (from alchemy), medicine (from barbering and midwifery) and physics (God's natural laws). The new uses of mathematics would charge the revolutionary theories of the big guns: Descartes, Galileo and Newton. Developing analogies and models was crucial, as were the founding of scientific societies and securing of royal patronage. In his compact, clear synthesis, Knight offers stimulating minibiographies of these trailblazers (with dates after each). Essentially the story of the West's spectacular development, told by a knowledgeable, patient teacher.

Product Details

Yale University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

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Meet the Author

David Knight is Emeritus Professor of History & Philosophy of Science, Durham University, and former editor of the British Journal for the History of Science. He lives in Durham, UK.

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