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The History of Science from Augustine to Galileo Paperback – 28 Mar 2003

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A definitive history leading up to and through the Scientific Revolution which has been compared to the rise of Greek philosophy, and the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire. Crombie (U. of Oxford) surveys scientific stalls and advances from the Middle Ages to the full flowering of science in the 17th century. This second edition is the

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent account of the evolution of science. 12 Oct. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very widely encompassing account of the evolution and development of science through history. The considerations of the sociopolitical and philosophical climates pertaining to the times gives the reader a basis of understanding why science progressed as it did. The account is very well organised and lucid, although it fails in some aspects to consider the contributions of the Far Eastern civilizations. It makes a very valuable contribution to help appreciate acutely the value of those who contributed to science's development.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book on a poorly known subject 6 Mar. 2014
By Jordan Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was surprised to find how few English language books there are about science in the middle ages. If you want to read about Galileo's work on inertial physics, or Descartes' work on optics, or Newton's work on astronomy, or Lavoisier's work on chemistry, there are many (i) comprehensive books by researchers completely familiar with the original work, (ii) reliable surveys, and (iii) popular less technical accounts. There are also many biographies of scientists like Kepler, Leonardo, Galileo, Descartes and Newton that are quality scholarship and are easy to read. But the literature on medieval physics is much thinner.

Crombie covers a huge amount of material and huge number of writers. Reading this book I was delighted to be introduced to a new cast of characters that I didn't already know from earlier reading in the history of science: Adelard of Bath, Albertus Magnus, Pietro d'Abano, Jacopo Zabarella, Agostino Nifo, Jordanus Nemorarius, Gerard of Brussels, Giovanni Battista Benedetti; and although I have heard the names William of Ockham (Occam's Razor), Jean Buridan (Buridan's ass) and Nicole Oresme (the harmonic series diverges), they had only been names without any ideas of when they lived or the topics they wrote about.

In Aristotelian physics there were ideas like natural and violent motion that seem strange to us. But we also have ideas that are not precise. For example, try to give a precise definition of force without merely stating Newton's second law; if you can't, then isn't Newton's second law merely a definition of force? In this case, the fact that we have what may be two equivalent notions that have no precise difference which yet we treat differently could be confusing for someone in the future who reads about our physics.

This book would be particularly useful for someone doing work on the history of models in science. In Volume I, Chapter III, Section 2, Crombie describes writing of Aquinas, Bernard of Verdun and Giles of Rome about constructing hypotheses that account for observed facts.

A bold writer might write a biography of Roger Bacon or William of Ockham, either academic or semipopular (at the level of David Bodanis's "Passionate Minds"). I doubt there is enough information about their lives for a book about either of them to hang together as a typical biography, but either could be used as a focus around which to wind a story about medieval science. ("More Than a Barber: A Biography of William of Ockham".)

"The great idea recovered during the 12th century, which made possible the immediate expansion of science from that time, was the idea of rational explanation as in formal or geometrical demonstration; that is, the idea that a particular fact was explained when it could be deduced from a more general principle."
3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre 11 July 2009
By Viktor Blasjo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very mediocre history. I shall illustrate its mediocrity by criticising this quotation:

"The formulation of the Aristotelian 'law of motion' metrically as a function [velocity proportional to motive power over resistance], so that it became quantitatively refutable, was an achievement of the greatest importance, even though neither Bradwardine nor any of his contemporaries discovered an expression that fitted the facts or indeed applied any empirical quantitate test." (p. II.70)

This makes no sense. Nothing is added to the verbal expression by turning it into a formula.

In what sense did the law suddenly become "quantitatively refutable" by this transformation? Obviously not because it enabled Galileo-style objections based on joining bodies of different weights, since such objections were raised already in Antiquity (p. II.65). Nor because it drew attention to the case resistance=0 or the possibility that the force caused no motion, since these cases was discussed in detail by Aristotle himself (p. II.62-63).

Crombie's answer is cryptic: "Using his metric formulation, Bradwardine was able to show" various things, most notably "Bradwardine argued that Aristotle's law meant that if a given ratio p/r produced a velocity v, then the ratio that would double this velocity was not 2p/r but (p/r)^2" (p. II.71). Why on earth would (p/r)^2 double the velocity? This claim is nowhere in Aristotle. Apparently Bradwardine "argued" that it is implicit in Aristotle, but we see no trace of this alleged "argument." It seems to me that the mistaken belief that (p/r)^2 doubles the velocity was in fact introduced by mathematics rather than eliminated by it. Crombie has no evidence that any error of this kind was ever committed in the pre-"metrical" period.
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