The Abacus and the Cross

The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages
The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages. Basic Bks: Perseus. Dec. 2010. c.368p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465009503. $27.95. SCI
The story of Gerbert of Aurillac, later Pope Sylvester II, not only is a rags-to-riches saga but also captures how the direction of history can be influenced by one person. Gerbert entered the monastery early and thrived on learning and reading. Mastering grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, he also possessed a sophisticated command of Latin and later taught at major cathedral schools and tutored the sons of kings. In Córdoba, the crossroads for the exchange of knowledge between the Arabic world and Europe, he learned the abacus and higher mathematics and astronomy. Brown (Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman) captures the court and church intrigues, disputes, politics, wars, marriages, and backroom maneuvering that drove events before and after 1000 C.E. Had Gerbert lived longer and been more politically savvy, Brown's portrait makes one believe his ability to teach might have jump-started science before the Dark Ages enveloped Europe.
VERDICT Enjoyable to read, informative, and highly recommended for all history and history of science buffs.
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