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Professor Kemble insists that to understand science one must understand not only what the scientists have discovered, but how the discoveries were made, why the growth of scientific knowledge had to begin slowly, and what it has done to our habits of thought. He has written neither a history of science nor an introduction to the philosophy of science but an introduction to scientific concepts and principles that supplies as much of their historical and philosophical context as limits of space permit.
The volume takes up in turn the story of the astronomy of ancient Greece, the Copernican revolution, the idea of the expanding sidereal universe, the rise of Newton's classical mechanics with its many astronomical applications, the concept of energy and its relation to heat, to steam engines, and to thermodynamics. The volume ends with an account of the successes and failures of classical kinetic-molecular theory of heat.
Though written for students the book had an obvious appeal to the general reader.