The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics

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9780061305795: The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics
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Surveys the evaluation of man's scientific knowledge regarding the theories and principles of astronomy

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The story of our relationship with the stars and their celestial cousins is long, involving, and full of surprises. The Fabric of the Heavens, by science historians Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, outlines thinking about astronomy and dynamics from "pretheoretical" Babylonian times to the Newtonian revolution that seeded our modern conceptions of space. Fully integrating the two cultures of science and the humanities, the authors find evidence of new thinking in Milton's writing and medieval tapestries, as well as in classic scientific and prescientific works. Using language that is beautiful, compelling, and precise, they trace the threads of history that are woven into today's science (which, they predict, will find itself woven into something even more startlingly unrecognizable in years hence).

Why were the ancients so fascinated by the sky and stars? Interestingly, it seems that their concerns were mostly practical; theological significance took longer to attach itself to the patterns up above. Agricultural and navigational concerns, once resolved, gave way to deeper philosophical, mythological, and religious curiosity--which used the mathematical tools of its predecessors to great effect. The lives and works of Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton are all thoroughly explored, and it is easier to see the continuity between them and their contemporaries in the breadth of this writing. Published in 1962, The Fabric of the Heavens was one of the first postmodern studies of the development of physical science; even were it not such a pleasure to read, it would still merit careful study. --Rob Lightner

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Toulmin, Stephen Edelston
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Stephen Edelston Toulmin
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