Essentially the story of the West’s spectacular development, told by a knowledgeable, patient teacher.




A wide swath of scientific developments since the Renaissance era, densely packed and surprisingly accessible.

Despite the hints in the title (extracted from a Wordsworth poem), this lively epistemological study by Knight (Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Science/Durham Univ.; Public Understanding of Science, 2006, etc.) is not about sea travel per se, although explorations have fueled plenty of exciting discoveries and inventions throughout the ages, starting with mapping. The author lays out more of a metaphorical voyage into uncharted waters—the awakening of curiosity about the greater world and grasping of new tools and knowledge, which prompted a scientific revolution that Knight compares to a kind of adolescence of man. Once the classical texts that had been cherished by the Arabs began to be translated in monasteries and universities in England and Italy, several important currents converged in the West that fed this revolution in science—e.g., the “bringing down to earth” of lofty (often defective) systems worked out by the ancients—Aristotle, Galen and Ptolemy—the testing of them by new methods (empirical, experimental) and the inductive reasoning as propounded by Francis Bacon. Knight underscores the importance of faith (mostly Christian) in the lives of these early men (and nearly all were men) of science, and hence the need to “accommodate” to biblical thought the new discoveries in astronomy (emerging from astrology), chemistry (from alchemy), medicine (from barbering and midwifery) and physics (God’s natural laws). The new uses of mathematics would charge the revolutionary theories of the big guns: Descartes, Galileo and Newton. Developing analogies and models was crucial, as were the founding of scientific societies and securing of royal patronage. In his compact, clear synthesis, Knight offers stimulating minibiographies of these trailblazers (with dates after each).

Essentially the story of the West’s spectacular development, told by a knowledgeable, patient teacher.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-17379-6

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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