THE SLEEPWALKERS by Arthur Koestler


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This is a history of cosmology subtitled A History of man's changing vision of the Universe. Beginning in the Heroic Age with the Babylonians and Egyptians, the sixth century Greeks -- Pythagoras, ""the founder of Science as the word is understood today"", Aristarchus, ""the Greek Copernicus"", Plato and Aristotle, Ptolemy, the last great astronomer of the Alexandrian School, Koestler traces cosmic theories through the Early (Platonic) Fathers,the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance when he shifts his narrative from ""the evolution of cosmic ideas to the individuals who were chiefly responsible for them"". He discusses the life and system of Copernicus whose ""discovery"" consisted in a reversal of the Ptolemaic system; the rivalry between Kepler and Galileo; the trial of Galileo which he believes ""was not in the nature of a fatal collision between opposite philosophies of existence...but rather a clash of individual temperaments aggravated by unlucky coincidences."" He concludes his study with The Newtonian Synthesis ""because the cosmology of Einstein is as yet in a fluid state...too early to assess"". This is a brilliant examination of inspiration, delusion, insight, dogmatism, a book which its author calls ""a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias"". Not for the uninitiate.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1959
Publisher: Macmillan