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Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500-1700 [Paperback]

Peter Dear
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 2001 0691088608 978-0691088600

From Copernicus, who put the earth in orbit around the sun, to Isaac Newton, who gave the world universal gravitation, the Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transformed the way that Europeans understood their world. In this book, Peter Dear offers an accessible introduction to the origins of modern science for both students and general readers.

Beginning with "what was worth knowing in 1500," Dear takes the reader through natural philosophy, humanism, mathematics, and experimentalism until he can describe "what was worth knowing by the eighteenth century." Along the way, he discusses the key ideas, individuals, and social changes that constituted the Scientific Revolution.

For all of its economy and broad appeal, Revolutionizing the Sciences never sacrifices sophistication of treatment. Dear questions triumphal ideas of scientific progress, unravels the connections between scientific knowledge and power over nature, and distinguishes between the scientific renaissance that characterized the sixteenth century and the more fundamental revolution that occurred in the seventeenth.

This is an ideal textbook on the Scientific Revolution for courses on the history of science or the history of early modern Europe. The text is chronologically arranged and fully covers both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, standing alone as an up-to-date, complete general introduction to the origins of modern science in Europe.

Revolutionizing the Sciences is the best available choice for teaching or learning about the developments that came to be called the Scientific Revolution.

Editorial Reviews Review

Where did science come from? Somehow, the abstract reasoning of the ancient Greeks turned into a multibillion-dollar knowledge-farming industry, and the tipping point between the two holds endless fascination. Historian of science Peter Dear examines the transitional period in detail in the slim Revolutionizing the Sciences. It was designed as a textbook, but its organization should appeal to general readers as well. Dense but accessible, Dear's prose encourages the reader to abandon preconceptions about medieval and Renaissance scientific understanding and investigation. Dear hopes to show that the Scientific Revolution, though vitally important, was actually a natural development from preceding philosophical thinking, and his arguments are compelling.

... the picture of a superstitious and credulous Europe in 1500 giving way, by 1700, to a cool, rationalistic, scientific Europe continues to have a strong hold on our views of the past. The astrology, demonology, and so forth of fifteenth-century figures [...] were ingredients of the intellectual ferment of the next couple of centuries; they were not philosophical negatives of a new rationality that would sweep them away.

Though the book focuses more on physical sciences than biology and medicine, this serves the author well, as the metascientific advances of the period were concentrated within astronomy, physics, and mathematics. Even those readers without grade pressure will find that careful scrutiny pays off well; Dear includes a huge list of resources to follow up with after finishing this work of necessarily limited scope. Revolutionizing the Sciences offers a broad perspective on how modern--and even postmodern--science came to be, and for that it deserves wide attention. --Rob Lightner


Winner of the Watson Davis And Helen Miles Davis Prize

[Dear] throws interesting light on the changing criteria used to evaluate natural knowledge, especially the increasing emphasis on experiment. . . . As a full and accurate account of such matters, this book is the best available, and I would recommend it to anyone."--Michael Hunter, Nature

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691088608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691088600
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,242,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very good for purpose October 4, 2008
This book is quite short for the topic. However, its purpose is to familiarize one with the scientific revolution. It does a good job pointing out the system of thought prior to the Scientific Revolution and how it evolved up to Newton. The book is perfect for an upper division course on the scientific revolution. However, due to the concise nature of the book, it should be used as a general background to the era or movement--which it is for the course I am taking. Dear spent some time addressing most key figures during the era, and produced a good starting text for those who do not have any background on the topic. It is well written and easily read.

I would suggest this text to all history majors, and also to those who are interested in the scientific revolution.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more from the other side January 23, 2012
By Ishroq
Overall, for an introductory work I think Dear presents his aim clearly and handles the subject he deals with well. For the various developments that took place in the physical sciences, he provides ample evidence from the primary texts of various key figures as well as from secondary literature which he references in the endnotes. Also, the fact that he does not treat the subject matter of the book anachronistically is another positive feature of his presentation. However, a few reservations are in order. First, it would have been helpful if Dear had referenced the Aristotelian theses, to which all the various key figures discussed Dear says constantly objected in developing their own ideas, in Aristotle's works themselves. An example of this would be Galileo's criticism of Aristotle's view that heavy bodies fall faster than light ones. There's disagreement about whether or not Galileo even got Aristotle right on this issue. Another example would be the distinction Dear draws (in chapter 4) between pure and mixed mathematics which he attributes to the Aristotelians and against which Galileo and others reacted. Where is exactly is this distinction in Aristotle's works? And if it was drawn by the later (scholastic) Aristotelian tradition, who exactly were they (names?) and where in their works did they uphold it? Another important point which I think Dear should've included in his book (at least even in passing) is whether or not anyone from the Aristotelian tradition responded to these developments in the various sciences which had undermined their doctrines. How, for example, did they receive Galileo's or Francis Bacon's criticisms? Or how did they respond to the mechanistic conception of the world which originated with Descartes? Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 4, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautiful, clean print, perfect cover. Nice!
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21 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Barely adequate July 6, 2009
This is a barely adequate survey text. There are many imperfections, of which I shall note a few.

It is claimed that the scientific revolution was based on a resurrection of mathematics from the "pure" and inapplicable. For example: "Galileo and other mathematicians rejected the disciplinary boundary between natural philosophy and mathematics by arguing that mathematics was crucially important in drawing legitimate physical conclusions." (p. 73). "This is where Galileo is such a useful figure" (p. 72). Who ever ever tried to uphold this "disciplinary boundary"? No one is named; there is no quotation or reference, other than generic talk of "Aristotelians," the perpetual villains who are never specified. Similarly, the foolish distinction between "pure" and "mixed" mathematics is also called "Aristotelian" (p. 17). There is no reference to Aristotle for the simple reason that there is none. Aristotle never made such a nonsensical division, nor did anyone with half a brain. The terms in fact originate with Bacon and were invented for his specific propaganda purposes. But Dear swallows it uncritically as absolute truth. Dear is right that "all revolutions are revolution against something" (p. 3), but he fails to consider the possibility that the revolution defines itself against a straw man.

Dear claims that "Kepler responded to the challenge [of Tycho's system] by producing models that could be expressed in Ptolemaic, Copernican, or Tychonic terms" (pp. 76-77). This is complete nonsense. There are no such models.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry Reading February 1, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very dry reading, greatly discussed the topics it covers but boring. Had a hard time staying awake reading it for my class.
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