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Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe 1st Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1590206072
ISBN-10: 159020607X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Medieval scientists are just victims of some bad public relations. Fortunately, Professor John Freely, physicist and book author, is here to set the record straight, in a book called Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe."--Science 2.0

About the Author

John Freely was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926. He teaches physics at Bosphorous University in Istanbul. He has written more than forty books, including The Lost Messiah, The Grand Turk, and Aladdin's Lamp.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; 1 edition (August 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159020607X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590206072
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was very excited about the subject of this book, but was put off by the writing. Instead of a narrative, the book reads like an annotated bibliography. The author lists important scientists and their works, but does not ground them in a solid historical context. He also does not go into how their adavnces changed the society around them. The information is very good, which is why I am giving it three stars, but some of it is rather techincal and hard to follow. I could tell the book was written by a scientist rather than a historian. Good as a reference, bad as leisure reading.
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This book is a good model for popular history. The author has chosen work of a specific scholar, Alistair Crombie at All Souls, Oxford and made it far more accessible for a general reader, eliminating the visible scholar apparatus and putting together a coherent narrative. As this is made quite clear in the Introduction. Crombie apparently emphasized the continuity of development of science in Europe from the end of the barbarian invasions around 1000 to the time of Galileo and Newton and so does Freely. Other works by folks like Grant, Lindberg, Goldstein, Fukenstein, Hannan, and so on do the same. If interested, please take a look at the reading list I have put together on the subject. But the Freely book is perhaps the most accessible and a good introduction in any case.

A number of points should probably be made justifying the 4 star rating. The editing is not perfect with a few errors creeping into the text most noticeably on the last page when the penultimate paragraph is repeated in a longer and shorter form. It would have been better, I think, to have see a few more of the available contemporary graphical illustrations of the physical and mathematical concepts being discussed, perhaps trading off some of the small portraits of the characters. The first few chapters, covering from the Greeks to the transmission of Greek texts through Arabic into Europe, read a bit like a cut and paste job. As soon as we settle into the story with Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, the narrative structure begins to flesh out and Freely then reinforces his case by carefully following who was the student of whom forward into the beginning of Renaissance. This is probably the best feature of Freely's work and did make the general argument quite reasonable.
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Format: Hardcover
As Freely points out, the general reader usually thinks of modern science as starting with the revolutionary contributions of Galileo, Copernicus and Newton, but in "Before Galileo" he shows how there was in fact a continuity of scientific discovery in Europe from the "Dark Ages" though the Renaissance, based on fragments of classical learning and an important newer practical empiricism. Freely tells this story compellingly and with a wealth of fascinating detail.

Lawrence Goodman
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Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe
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