Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Advancement of Modern Science in Medieval Europe

By John Freely

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59020-607-2
Publisher: Overlook

A history of science in the centuries before Copernicus, Galileo and Newton.

After the Visigoth sack of Rome in 410 and the subsequent burning of the great Library of Alexandria, the ancient Greco-Roman world descended into the darkness of the early Middle Ages, writes historian Freely (Physics/Bosphorous Univ.; Light From the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam Helped to Shape the Western World, 2011, etc.). Yet fragments of classical learning survived in the keeping of a handful of scholars in monasteries. In time, the monastic movement produced the first European scientists, whose work sparked the emergence of modern science. In this revealing but plodding account, Freely traces the transmission of ancient Greek philosophical and scientific works to the Islamic world, where scholars took the lead in science and passed their knowledge on to Europe. In thumbnail portraits, he describes the work of Ibn Sina, Gerard of Cremona and others who conveyed Arab science to the West. By 1500, Europe, with 80 universities, had undergone “a tremendous intellectual revival.” Freely charts the advance of that revival, with Albertus Magnus becoming the first to use the modern scientific method based on observation and experimentation, and Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon making full use of the experimental method. In an overview of subsequent, increasingly modern science, Freely describes work on the new science of motion by 14th-century Oxford scientists; Newton’s successful explanation of the rainbow in 1714; and the astronomical observations and calculations of Copernicus, which marked the onset of the scientific revolution.

For specialists and students.