THE DAY THE UNIVERSE CHANGED by James Burke

THE DAY THE UNIVERSE CHANGED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A companion volume to an upcoming public television series on the origin of modern Western attitudes and institutions. Burke is author of a previous BBC series, Connections, and its companion volume. In The Day the Universe Changed, he focuses on eight specific moments in history that revolutionized man's understanding of himself and his world. The ""moments"" selected: the arrival of Aristotelian logic to Europe (the outgrowth, serendipitously, of the plunder of Toledo with its consequent revelation of the great treasures of the Moslem libraries); the rediscovery of perspective geometry in Renaissance painting; the Gutenberg press and the rise of mass knowledge; Newton's discovery of the principle of gravity, with its import to man's conception of his place in the universe; the industrial revolution; the pairing of medicine and statistics in 18th-century France; the theory of evolution; and the modern theories of particle physics. Burke treats these new perspectives in an attempt to demonstrate how man and science continually redefine the limits of knowledge. In itself, this reflects the fallibility of science, which Burke is quick to admit. ""Science may well be a vital part of human endeavor, but for it to retain the privilege which it has gained over the centuries of being in some measure unaccountable would be to render both science itself and society a disservice. ""Studies such as this are always, of their nature, subjective. The eight developments would, more or less, appear on any reasonable person's list of importance to civilization. Perhaps as important might be a discussion of the concept of time that arose out of Christianity, a subject memorably addressed by Paul Johnson in Enemies of Society. But, alas, the BBC contracted only for 8 episodes. As with all PBS series, education made entertaining.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown