The Story of Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory

Norton. May 2015. 320p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393243260. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393243277. SCI
Bauer (The Well Educated Mind) highlights 36 texts that illustrate the progression of popular scientific thought in the West. The book's Eurocentric worldview cannot be denied: this is not an effort to educate readers about little-known contributors, rather the book is designed to acquaint informed nonspecialists with the greatest editions of classic scientific theories. Each chapter gives the historic context for one to three books by explaining their importance and history. This is followed by the publication information of other editions of the work(s), the ones deemed most accessible by Bauer. Chapters can be read individually but work best in sequence. The organization is mostly chronological, with sections on ancient and early modern works followed by more subject-specific sections (which follow internal chronologies) for geology, biology, and physics. The section on physics is somewhat less tightly connected to the others. Bauer does an especially good job of reminding the reader which biological and geological theories were contemporaries of one another. Helpfully, she notes which parts of the relevant titles readers really need to examine and which can be skipped. A planned companion website will include links to free editions and excerpts from some of the titles.
VERDICT Overall, useful to anyone seeking to ground themselves, quickly, in the foundational works of modern science.
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