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Science: A Four Thousand Year History 1st Edition

2.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199226894
ISBN-10: 019922689X
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Very well-written and highly readable. The language is clear and the arguments are lucid. Frequent examples and anecdotes enliven dry, theoretical concepts. With the author's engaging style of writing, even those with topics that might not normally have captured one's interest become a pleasure to read."--American Scientist


"Fara's book marks an important direction in the discipline: a bona-fide historian of science writing an engaging book for the general reader."--Chemical Heritage


About the Author


Patricia Fara lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and is the Senior Tutor of Clare College. She is the author of numerous books, including Fatal Attraction: Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment and Newton: The Making of Genius. Her writing has appeared in New Scientist, Nature, The Times, and New Statesman, and she writes a regular column for Endeavour.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019922689X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199226894
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,309,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick Wylie on October 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Here is a detailed critique from Norman Levitt, in Skeptic Magazine:

Science: A Four Hundred Page Hissy-Fit

by Norman J. Levitt

Imagine a biography of Mozart grimly intent on debunking its subject. It points out that he had an unhealthy interest in scatological jokes, demeaned women in Cosi fan tutte, black men in Die Zauberflote and poor peasants in Don Giovanni. He was a spendthrift and preyed on his friends' generosity, while thinking himself superior to any of his fellow-musicians. He garnered praise and glory in Vienna while leaving his equally talented sister to languish in the provinces as their father's housekeeper. He exploited the underpaid talents of performing musicians, copyists, and a host of other menials to realize his work and put it before the wealthy public. He curried the favor of a decadent hereditary nobility in a crumbling and oppressive empire. Furthermore, he borrowed a lot of his themes from folk-music without acknowledgment. To think of him as a singular genius, then, is obviously wrongheaded, since practically anyone can whistle or hum a tune and even improvise on it without depending on his examples. He is cited shamelessly by the reigning elite as a prime example of western cultural superiority in an attempt to intimidate the masses and to justify the continuing hegemony of capitalist high culture. However, we oughtn't to patronize those ordinary people who prefer hip-hop to Mozart; they're just embracing unorthodox (by upper-class standards) but equally valid esthetic values. In sum, there's no reason whatever to idolize Mozart, and we ought to cast a suspicious eye on those who do.
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Format: Hardcover
When your book is entitled "Science - A Four thousand Year History", you better know your stuff and know it well. A large subject. Dr. Norman J. Levitt's critique in skeptic magazine pretty much sums it up.

Dr. Levitt is 100% absolutely spot on when he writes, "Imprecision reigns on every page; inaccuracies, irrelevancies, omissions, anachronisms, errors, and outright howlers go galumphing through the text with the author's blithe acquiescence"

and Dr. Levitt finishes by stating.....

"To put it impudently and without any leavening of charity, what in the world is a meager scholar like Fara doing on Newton's home turf, Cambridge?"

Wow. Yes, that just happened and Dr. Levitt wrote that...

Skip this sloppy history/science book...and pick up Bill Bryson's, A Short History of Nearly Everything.
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Format: Paperback
I thought this book was quite entertaining. It is quite a brief book, so don't expect everything scientific to be covered. The few things that are covered are done briefly, making this a good book to read in short bursts of time. The slowest section is the section during the Middle Ages, but that is just because many of the historical figures were unfamiliar to me. The book does a good job portraying many scientists as humans and not just otherworldly geniuses which I think hype can often times create. (Don't get me wrong, these are very intelligent and rare people but keep in mind they are not gods...) . Also, keep in mind that this is a contextual look at the history of science, not an in depth look at every scientific theory ever created, which would be impossible to cover everything.
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Format: Paperback
Patricia Fara's history of science is a sad effort to deconstruct history and erect a vapid, politically correct version of events. It's a waste of ink and paper. Apparently Oxford University Press agrees, since in my copy they inserted pages 209 through 240 up-side down, consistent with Fara's view of science.
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Format: Hardcover
Science: A Four Thousand Year History
This is a somewhat unconventional history of science in that the author, Patricia Fara, is more intent on debunking scientists and scientific achievements than on celebrating them. She frequently emphasizes where notable figures were wrong or misguided and how their discoveries often involved luck or methods we would not now accept as "scientific." She stresses how science is fallible and subject to personal, political, and material pressures.

"Scientific icons are treated as other-worldly beings who float above the realities of daily life," Fara contends, and she seeks to bring them down a notch or two. She treats Galileo as a court politician and publicist, for instance. Newton, she writes, "stands Janus-faced between the Aristotelian, alchemic world of harmonic influences and the modern world of mathematical laboratory science." Alexander Fleming, who is credited for the discovery of penicillin, was shoddy and tardy in the reporting of his findings, and many others contributed substantially to the discovery, not just Fleming himself. Arthur Eddington fudged the data in his confirmation of Einstein's General Theory in 1919. These are just a few such examples of the many she relates.

Fara tends to argue a little too vehemently or repetitively for certain judgments that most of us likely would readily accept. She traces the origins of science to several sources now thought of as magical or unscientific, such as concepts and techniques rooted in astrology and alchemy. Artisans and technicians, not just canonical philosophers and "scientists," have always been important contributors, she points out.
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