A Little History of Science

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9780300136593: A Little History of Science

Science is fantastic. It tells us about the infinite reaches of space, the tiniest living organism, the human body, the history of Earth. People have always been doing science because they have always wanted to make sense of the world and harness its power. From ancient Greek philosophers through Einstein and Watson and Crick to the computer-assisted scientists of today, men and women have wondered, examined, experimented, calculated, and sometimes made discoveries so earthshaking that people understood the world—or themselves—in an entirely new way.

This inviting book tells a great adventure story: the history of science. It takes readers to the stars through the telescope, as the sun replaces the earth at the center of our universe. It delves beneath the surface of the planet, charts the evolution of chemistry's periodic table, introduces the physics that explain electricity, gravity, and the structure of atoms. It recounts the scientific quest that revealed the DNA molecule and opened unimagined new vistas for exploration.

Emphasizing surprising and personal stories of scientists both famous and unsung, A Little History of Science traces the march of science through the centuries. The book opens a window on the exciting and unpredictable nature of scientific activity and describes the uproar that may ensue when scientific findings challenge established ideas. With delightful illustrations and a warm, accessible style, this is a volume for young and old to treasure together.

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From the Author:

A Conversation with William Bynum

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I was charmed by Gombrich's Little History of the World and thought I would like to do something like it for my grandchildren Alex and Peter. I used to teach the history of science and thought what a wonderful story it could make, to start at the beginning with the stargazers in Babylon and come up to the computer age of today. People from time immemorial, in all cultures, have thought about such things as why the sun rises and sets, how a hen's egg develops into a new chick, and why we fall ill and might be made well.

Q: What are the great turning points—for you—in the history of science?

A: The invention of the telescope and the microscope, which allowed people to do science on things that you couldn't even see with your naked eye.

Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, which changed the way we see the living world and offered us the chance to delve into the secrets of life. Einstein's theories of relativity, which opened up the universe to new interpretations.

The coming of the modern computer, which enabled scientists to tackle questions in fields as diverse as the human genome and climate change that would have been impossible a couple of generations ago.

Q: What are the major themes of your book?

A: My book has only one theme: science as a human endeavor to understand the world. The history of science is a journey through time, illuminated on the way by great thinkers, adept experimenters, and people of enlarged curiosity. Understanding that journey tells us something about who we are as human beings.

About the Author:

William Bynum is professor emeritus, history of medicine, University College London. He is author or editor of numerous publications, including most recently Great Discoveries in Medicine. He lives in Suffolk, UK.

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William Bynum
Published by Yale University Press (2012)
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