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