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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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