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The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (Studies in European History) Paperback – 3 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 3 edition (3 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230574386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230574380
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 1.2 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'The Scientific Revolution - by whatever name - marks a period of fundamental historical change. In this little book, John Henry provides a clearly organized and gracefully written introduction to its complexities; not only to past achievements and enduring aspirations, but to the unfinished business of historical interpretation.' - Robert A. Hatch, University of Florida, USA

'Henry's book remains the most comprehensive short introduction to the Scientific Revolution available.' - Rob Iliffe, University of Sussex, UK

'With the third edition of The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science, John Henry continues his admirable track record for thoughtful and well targeted improvement of an already fine product, with timely additions and modifications reflecting the evolving state of research and debate in the field. From its first edition this has been our Program's introductory textbook of choice, whilst the innovative and continually expanding bibliographical referencing system, keyed to topics as they arise in the text, is commended to our students on all levels.' - Professor John Schuster, University of New South Wales, Australia
'Henry's book succeeds in conveying the complexity of this period clearly.' - Margaret J. Osler, Isis

Book Description

A new edition of one of the most successful and established textbooks in the field, now revised, updated and extended to take into account the latest scholarship and research.

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By bobobob5 on 13 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Many people will buy this because it is the 'set book' for the Open University course AS208. It was a very good choice for that course, because it is up-to-date, easy to read, and covers a great deal of ground in a limited number of pages. It contains an extremely useful and extensive list of other puiblications on the history of science, for deeper study, complete with Henry's comments about each of them.
The author certainly knows his subject. He has succeeded in condensing a vast field of knowledge into a small space, and only a person who is a true expert can achieve that. He follows the current mainstream school of thought that religion and science were not 'enemies'; whilst this will come as no surprise to scientific historians, it might - at least initially - surprise those who have been brainwashed into believing that the Roman Catholic Church hated science.
If you're not an Open University student, I think you will find this book very useful. I can't think of another book that covers so much ground, so effectively, so succinctly. It goes way beyond the 'popular science' accounts of Newton and so on, but in a very non-academic style, which anyone can understand. If you're interested in the history of science, and its relationship with religion, I'd say this super little book is a must.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Dec. 2000
Format: Paperback
A very easy to read and informative review of the scientific revolution and the origins of modern science. The writing is not too technical yet allows an incite into who the main characters were and their agendas within this period of history. This book is particularly useful for a course in the history of science.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Smith on 2 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book for the non-science specialist, with good overview of major figures in the history of science and an outline of the insights they contributed. A good starting point for reading in a structured way in the development of scientific ideas, with a useful bibliography.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
An indispensable and affordable research guide 20 July 1999
By Jen E. Boyle - Published on
Format: Paperback
Henry's overview of the key figures and concepts of the scientific revoulution is an admirable general resource for studying the political, cultural and religious background to early modern science.
This small and highly accessible book is organized around an extensive bibliography that is referenced throughout the chapters in bracketed footnote form, allowing readers to pursue histories, concepts and themes by simply checking the back of the book for the articles and books Henry lists as key texts (the bibliography is extensive, up to date, and annotated).
The text is accessible and well-written and would serve as a resource for undergraduates, novices, or as guide for more advanced studies -- I'm beginning a dissertation on this period and have found this to be an invaluable organizational tool and reference manual for my reading.
My only criticism is that the book is rather sparse on feminist/gender studies/critiques, though it does offer a few key texts and a very brief overview of feminist contributions. A broader description and more inclusive listing of the recent contributions of gender studies to the field would have extended the range of this impressive little volume.
In addition to chapters on the alchemical, cultural, and religious influences on early natural philosophy, readers will find a succinct and thought-provoking analysis of historigraphical approaches to science studies.
The bibliography is comprised of secondary sources and manages to be both extensive (245 entries) and selective, offering the principal texts for the terms of each debate or discussion point.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great Text for Gaining Traction on the Subject 10 May 2013
By David Milliern - Published on
Format: Paperback
Outdoing John Henry's "The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science" would not be easy. The function of the work is to bring the reader up to speed on the "state of the debate," as he says in the preface. Moreover, it has the overtly pragmatic function as a bibliographical guide for anyone, the student or general reader, to the key resources necessary to fast-track research and get one's feet wet with the "key" works. Beyond that, the text is a pleasant read, focusing on amorphous nature of pre-science that crystalizes into early modern science. Important elements highlighted in this amorphous miasmic pre-science cloud of practices are descriptively religious, mathematical, material procedural (method and experiment), philosophical (esp. mechanical), and magical in nature. As with any survey, the text presents a study that is by no means systematic. In my judgment, John Henry does draw out those features of the period that spring to mind as being the most salient. Even though not systematic, I think Henry does well to tie themes together and develop a large-scale picture of what's going on (primarily) in the sixteenth and start of the seventeenth century. As far as existing scholarship goes, the author does make clear that much, much more research on the relation between mathematics, magic, and science is needed, a truism I have found in history of mathematics literature.

The book definitely has some shortcomings. For example, in chapter 3 (pg. 43 of 1st edition), he says, "The pragmatism of magic is obvious." That's definitely not the case for the student. From my perspective, a contemporary philosopher of science with some training in history, having only been recently introduced to primary sources in magic, see little of pragmatic value in many of the magic texts. Many magicians did not even espouse to have performed any of the "recipes" that they had written down. Other texts espouse functional utility, but, in some cases, it is still unclear whether the rituals, etc., were ever performed by a single soul. It is clear that procedures from other texts were performed, and efficaciously so. For this reason, I wished Henry had not made the half dozen, or so, unsupported statements that occur throughout the text. There are a few other little details, but they make no significant detraction from this very valuable and well-written text.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Underwhelming chapter on magic 22 Jun. 2010
By Viktor Blasjo - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is on the whole a competent survey text with a modern flavour. It would be too innocuous to review were it not for its one unique chapter on "Magic and the Origins of Modern Science," which is, I believe, Henry's primary area of expertise. This unimpressive chapter opens with a predictable straw man:

"A number of historians of science have refused to accept that something which they see as so irrational could have had any impact whatsoever upon the supremely rational pursuit of science. Their arguments seem to be based on mere prejudice, or a failure to understand the richness and complexity of the magical tradition." (p. 56)

Alas, our hero has barely issued this condemnation before he himself exhibits "prejudice" and "failure to understand" of the most blatant kind:

"Kepler ... can also be seen to have been deeply affected by the magical tradition of numerology. It is well known that a major stimulus to his work in cosmology was his attempt to answer the question of why there were only six planets. This is not a scientific question" (p. 58)

Of course this was in fact an eminently scientific question; Kepler thought so and his contemporaries agreed. Of course nowadays this old question is not part of the scientific corpus; it has been discarded just as the old question of what keeps a cart moving after one has stopped pushing it has been replaced by the new question of what makes it stop eventually. But these old questions were abandoned because they were no longer fruitful, not because they were intrinsically "unscientific"---nothing but "mere prejudice" can lead anyone to claim otherwise.

We may flip ahead to Newton for some more nonsense:

"The fact remains, anyway, that Newton was able to immediately accept Hooke's suggestion [of the inverse square law of gravity etc.], even though it depended upon the occult idea of forces capable of acting at a distance, because he was already attuned to think this way by his alchemical work." (pp. 64-65)

"Fact"?! What on earth is the justification for calling this a "fact"? Newton himself never asserted this "fact." Nor is it a "fact" of necessity, obviously, since history is full of people who "immediately accepted" the inverse square law without being "already attuned to think this way by alchemical work."

Although further examples would severely exacerbate the predicament, these two examples alone are enough, I think, to show that Henry's umbrella-conception of magic is so enormously vague and opportunistic that the entire chapter becomes pointless.
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