Peter Whitfield 006: History of Science

ISBN 13: 9780717257089

006: History of Science

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9780717257089: 006: History of Science

The History of Science offers a fascinating overview of the major leaps forward in science across the ages. From the mathematical and medical advances of the ancient world, to the Scientific Revolution in the Renaissance, to the ground-breaking developments of the twentieth century, a precise chronological account of progress is given. In charting the course of the endeavours to understand, explain and harness the mysterious forces at work in our universe, Whitfield creates an accessible and lucid narrative which brings the novice up-to-speed. The writers excitement about the vast potential of science is infectious, making this enjoyable, as well as informative, listening.

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From AudioFile:

Peter Whitfield looks at the evolution of scientific knowledge, starting with an introduction to Sir Isaac Newton's "natural philosophy" and continuing with ancient astronomy and cave paintings, genomes and psychoanalysis. He covers a lot of ground briefly and quickly. At times, his narration can be dry while at other times his lively interest in "the intellectual quest to study our world" can be heard in his voice. His measured British tones, coupled with the formality of his writing, lend authority to the historical account. While this is an overview of the basics, Whitfield's material is thorough and well researched, making it a good introduction to scientific thought as it has changed through the ages. J.A.S. AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine

Review:

If, broadly speaking, science can be summed up as the intellectual quest for knowledge, it's hard to put a precise date on humanity's first scientific achievement - though we may deduce from the remains left in paleolithic burial chambers that people were speculating about the mysteries of life and death tens of thousands of years ago. For practical purposes, apart from brief references to Stonehenge and the 20,000-year-old cave paintings of southern Europe, Whitfield's four-part history starts with the invention of writing (Mesopotamian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics) a mere 5,000 years ago. 'It is no accident that the pyramids, the greatest physical symbols of ancient civilisation, belong to the age of the discovery of mathematics and writing.' This is Whitfield's fourth and easily his most ambitious audio history. He took a leisurely eight hours to stroll through English poetry and sprinted through the French revolution and Darwin for Naxos's single-CD 'In a Nutshell' series, but the story of western science at 1,000 years per hour is a tall order. It doesn't quite work out like that, of course. It's bottom-heavy, parts three and four covering respectively the 19th-century machine age and a spectacular list of 20th-century scientific and technological milestones - quantum physics, the big bang, DNA, genetic engineering and the internet account for half the book. Impressed as I am by E=mc2, as a non-scientist I can relate more to the physics taught by Empedocles of Sicily circa 450BC. All matter, he reckoned, was composed of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, which, mingled in varying proportions, produced all the substances of the universe and were in turn governed by the two greatest forces, love and strife. Listening to this made me ruefully aware of my ignorance. I had no idea that the Venerable Bede fixed the dating of Easter or that having to calculate the exact direction of Mecca and when to pray ensured that Islam had the best mathematicians and astronomers, or that the first steam engines of the industrial revolution required the output of an entire iron foundry to make and a coal mine to run. Who said boffins were boring? - Sue Arnold, The Guardian

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