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Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science Paperback – December 5, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Levenson's gracefully written, curious, often profound inquiry into the links between science and music hinges on his view of instruments--musical or scientific--as machines that extend the realm of human perception, opening up new worlds. He charts the evolution of science from Pythagoras's arrangement of the planets on the scaffolding of his musical scale to Newton's alchemical experiments and Leeuwenhoek's invention of the microscope to computerized weather prediction and genetically engineered mice. A parallel story progresses from the invention of the organ in ancient Alexandria to Stradivari's design of the modern cello to the invention of the electronic synthesizer. Pondering Bach's fugues and Stravinsky's compositions, TV producer Levenson ( Ice Time ) delves into music's mathematical underpinnings and concludes that science is "a form of art" that strives to make sense of the human condition. Illustrated. Newbridge Astronomy Book Club, Newbridge Library of Science and Reader's Subscription alternates.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Associate producer for PBS's Nova series, Levenson (Ice Time, LJ 4/15/89) has written a probing account of the intertwining of science and music from ancient times to the present day. Levenson blames Bach for this book. After becoming intrigued by well tempering at the time of Bach's 300th birthday celebration, he delved into the subject and discovered a truth that every serious musician comes to recognize: the importance of mathematics to the basics of music. Levenson singles out special scientific and musical instruments and explores thoroughly how the two fields are related. At times he is too detailed, but this is a minor fault; Levenson is a gifted writer who has produced an engrossing work. Recommended for academic libraries and general collections where Jamie James's Music of the Spheres (LJ 4/1/93) or Goedel, Escher, Bach (LJ 10/1/79) circulate well. [Newbridge's Astronomy Book Club, Library of Science, and Reader's Subscription alternates.]-Kathleen Spark- man, Baylor Univ., Waco, Tex.
--Kathleen Spark- man, Baylor Univ., Waco, Tex.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (December 5, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684804344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684804347
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My day job has me professing science writing at MIT, where I also run the Institute's Graduate Program in Science Writing.

I'm not yet wholly ivy-covered yet (and anyway -- the place up the street holds the franchise for that pernicious weed). In fact, I am a recent immigrant to the professoriat, and I continue to do what I did before: write books (and the occasional article), and make documentary films about science, its history, and its interaction with the broader culture in which scientific lives and discoveries unfold.

I'm just finished my fourth book, "Newton and the Counterfeiter" -- which is a great story from a little-known corner of Isaac Newton's life. My previous books include "Einstein in Berlin;" "Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science;" and "Ice Time: Climate Science and Life on Earth" (now, sadly, out of print). My documentaries have mostly appeared on PBS, and most of those on the NOVA series. Recent work includes the Origins series, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and broadcast on NOVA -- (my favorite is program four, the cosmology show, "Back to the Beginning"); the "Domes" program in David Macaulay's delightful PBS series Building Big, and NOVA's two hour Einstein Revealed, now a little long in the tooth, but featuring a nice turn by Andrew Sacks as Albert Einstein. (You may have seen Sacks in one of the great television comedy roles: Manuel the Spanish Waiter in Fawlty Towers.)

Besides writing, film making and generally being dour about the daily news, I lead an almost entirely conventional life in one of Boston's inner suburbs with a family that gives me great joy. The cat has to stop waking me up at five a.m., however.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a must-read for anyone interested in music and/or science and the history thereof. It is not an exhaustive history, nor is it intended to be. Rather, specific examples are carefully selected as illustration of parallel historical trends in both disciplines. The book is carefully researched and thought-out. Levenson has a lovely lyrical style of writing, richly expressive, complemented by well-chosen illustrations. I came away from the book with a new understanding and appreciation of the evolution of these two surprisingly similar arts, music and science, and what they have to teach us. Very highly recommended!
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