THE ASCENT OF SCIENCE by Brian Silver

THE ASCENT OF SCIENCE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 This pleasing volume undertakes--with considerable success- -to chart the broad history of science from the Renaissance to the end of the 20th century. Silver (Physical Chemistry/Israel Institute of Technology), focuses on the evolution of scientific theories rather than science's practical benefits. At the same time, he emphasizes that, more than ever, ``science has to be watched,'' because its impact on the world at large is too important to be left entirely to specialists. Silver therefore aims his book squarely at the common reader. His description of the nature and general behavior of gas molecules draws on such familiar experiences as a harried passenger attempting to cross a crowded railway station. A chapter on the nature of scientific evidence contrasts Descartes's radical skepticism with Bacon's trust in the evidence of his senses, building up to an attempt to answer those whose skepticism regarding science grows out of religious conviction. The history proper begins with Newton and Galileo, who between them laid out the broad outlines of scientific rationalism. The romantic reaction to science at the end of the 18th century was fueled in part by the discovery of phenomena that Newton's laws could not account for: notably electricity, research into which led the way to many of the discoveries of 19th-century science. At the same time, progress in the other sciences (especially biology) brought equally profound alterations not only in our understanding of the world, but in our ability to manipulate it. Silver's explanations of the leading theories and discoveries- -including their philosophical implications--he covers are usually detailed and clear, without dumbing down such challenging concepts as quantum theory, relativity, and the Big Bang. Confident but not arrogant, comprehensive, thought-provoking, and very well written. Silver has given us one of the most stimulating overviews of science in recent years. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-19-511699-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997




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