Customer Review

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly researched, biased, trivia without compelling analysis, an author stretched on an ambition far beyond his skill-set, 11 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Science: A History 1543 - 2001 (Paperback)
John Gribbin is not a professional historian and it shows. John's approach is flawed. He has used only English originals and a few translations into English. His coverage in scientists and scientific discovery is Anglo-Saxon to the extreme. Virtually all of the institutions he consulted are English (Cavendish in Cambridge, the Royal Institution and the Royal Society in London, ...). Even then, we are paid in trivia, such as the estate acreage some scientist's grandfather held in Somerset, but short on explaining key scientific reasoning, method and breakthrough.

Foreign language errors abound: Ice Age was called "Eizeit" (Time of the Egg?) by Louis Agassiz (Eiszeit!), Leibniz is consistently misspelled Leibnitz [sic]. There are even more worrying errors in describing the science. One example is the confusion Gribbin apparently suffers from in describing Mendel's laws of genetics. The regressive gene may pop up in the second generation, not the first generation of descendants as Gribbin has it!

There is no connection to Greek, Roman or Islamic science, although a reference to atomism would certainly have been appropriate in the chapter on modern chemistry, Greek and Roman natural history, botany and pharmacology should have been referred to in the chapter on life, and astronomy and mathematics of the Middle East certainly played a role in early Renaissance science.

The graphical illustrations are few and far between, are not well-chosen and are stand-alone and not worked into the fabric of the text.

Why did modern science arise in Europe, starting with the Renaissance? The question is not raised, let stand alone tentatively answered. What did science do for Europe? Did it allow Europe to dominate the world for an extended period? How was science received in society and how did it affect it? These essential questions at the crossroads of science and history are not properly identified and elucidated.

In conclusion: it isn't clear what this book is supposed to achieve for the reader and why it was written? A mash of facts and trivia, very biased, not properly referenced, and often dubiously interpreted. It reads like a book written in anger, something Gribbin wanted to get off his chest, but hadn't planned, prepared, researched and organised properly. What John Gribbin produces is a science "Book for Boys", not a history of science.
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