The Origins of Modern Science: From Antiquity to the Scientific Revolution

Cambridge Univ. Feb. 2021. 412p. ISBN 9781316510308. $99.99; pap. ISBN 9781316649701. $32.99. REF
Taking a complex natural philosophy approach to science history, Gal (history and philosophy of science, Univ. of Sydney; coauthor, Baroque Science) links early science history to institutions, beliefs, and political structures. Here, readers are urged to view science through the eyes of the historian rather than those of the scientist. Gal compares science to a cathedral, noting that both symbolize magnificent and imperfect major human achievements. Chapters explore cathedrals, astronomy, magic and alchemy, religion, medicine, medieval learning, paganism, monotheism, global knowledge, the Renaissance, Greek thought, and more. Specific scientists such as Galileo, Descartes, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton are discussed in the last two chapters. Gorgeous color and black-and-white illustrations are accompanied by detailed discussion of how specific inventions—such as the Gutenberg press—were designed and how they functioned. While there is no cumulative bibliography, each chapter includes a short list of suggested readings, organized into primary and secondary resources. An excellent general index and an index of illustrations facilitate access to information.
VERDICT Whether consulted as a reference work or read cover to cover, Gal’s work will appeal to college and graduate students studying a wide variety of subjects, including architecture, religion, political science, medicine, anthropology, the classics, natural philosophy, and astronomy.
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