A superbly lucid examination of a dramatic revolution in human thought that deserves a place on the shelf with Thomas Kuhn...

READ REVIEW

THE INVENTION OF SCIENCE

A NEW HISTORY OF THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION

Not exactly a history of science but of our idea of science: a shrewd, thoughtful analysis of how our view of finding truth held steady throughout history and then, over a century, changed and produced the dazzling progress we often take for granted.

Until the 16th century, most people believed that everything worth knowing was already known and that all questions could be answered with deep thought. Aristotle, the ultimate authority in the West, taught that one found truth through logical deductions from incontestable premises. Thus, since the heavens are unchanging and the only permanently unchanging movement is circular, all heavenly movements are circular. According to that worldview, observations are irrelevant. Columbus shattered this concept in 1492; no deduction could have predicted a new continent. Within decades, men—e.g., Copernicus in astronomy and Vesalius in anatomy—were examining phenomena with a new curiosity, claiming their findings were true even if they contradicted the official views of those in power. Many boasted of their achievements. Wootton (History/Univ. of York; Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, 2010, etc.) describes this as “a quite new type of intellectual culture: innovative, combative, competitive, but at the same time obsessed with accuracy.” The author maintains that modern science took form between 1572, when Tycho Brahe saw a nova, or new star, and 1704, when Isaac Newton published Opticks, which demonstrated that white light consists of all colors of the rainbow and that color inheres in light rather than in objects. Except for denouncing modern philosophers who teach that truth is culturally determined, so all explanations of reality are equally valid, Wootton’s account, as massive and sweeping as it is, stops with Newton.

A superbly lucid examination of a dramatic revolution in human thought that deserves a place on the shelf with Thomas Kuhn and David Deutsch.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0061759529

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more