God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam
|God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam|
|Category: Popular Science|
|Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley|
|Summary: The true story of science in the Medieval period. A fantastic read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: August 2009|
|Publisher: Icon Books Ltd|
Everybody knows that the Medieval people thought the world was flat and that it wasn't until Columbus proved otherwise that they found out it was a sphere. Everybody knows that the inquisition burned people at the stake for their scientific ideas and that Copernicus lived in perpetual fear of persecution. Everyone knows that the Pope banned human dissection and the number zero, and everybody is wrong.
In God's Philosophers, James Hannam attempts to set the record straight by taking us on an historical journey through six centuries, starting with the fall of Rome and taking us all the way though to the sixteenth century, stopping along the way to look at some of the key inventions which were developed during this time, like the watch and eye glasses, and covering key developments in maths and science, which really did move the world forwards in what has always been portrayed as a period devoid of cultural and scientific revolution.
I've always been a fan of both history and popular science, so I was glad to get the chance to review a book that swims the channel between these two shores. From the start, Hannam hooks you into this uncovering in a truly narrative style, which keeps the book interesting and interests you all the way through. As much as I love science and history, I'm often disappointed by the quality and drive of the writing in books like this one ( I won't name names), but in both cases, this book was a complete success and I had no qualms with the quality of the work.
It's hard not to be reminded of one of the classics in this genre: John Gribbin's, In Search of Schrödinger's Cat. For those of you not in the know, that text dealt with the history of quantum physics in a very engaging and entertaining way. For me, Gribbin pushed too far in trying to explain the science and occasionally the book stagnated as you could spend a few hours trying to work out what he was taking about. Thankfully, Hannam really avoids this, and though he explains the concepts particularly well, there's nothing that will stump you for a few hours, or the length of time it takes you to find a physics student to explain it to you. But in contrast to that, it's not so flimsy that you feel unchallenged – the balance is just right.
I can't quite believe I am saying this, being its only September, but I think that if you're looking for a Christmas present for the pop science and/or history buff in your life, you might want to give this a go. A gripping read full of fantastic illustrations; it's certainly a present I'd love to get.
If you've enjoyed this book, you might want to try: Einstein's Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe by Evalyn Gates, and A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love by Richard Dawkins. If you're in search of fiction, we can recommend In Search of Solace by Emily Mackie.
Thanks to the publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
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You can read more book reviews or buy God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam at Amazon.com.
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