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Science: A Four Thousand Year History 1st Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199226894
ISBN-10: 019922689X
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Editorial Reviews


"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: #560,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

160 of 192 people found the following review helpful 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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44 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Hamlet Khodaverdian on February 21, 2010
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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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Milliern on February 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Fara's framework for this book, and intended mode of developing it was great. The problem is that the actual fleshing out is horrendous. Fara's concept seems to be to draw an outline of the history of science that is done by way of essays. Nearly all sections of her romp through history of science are 3-5 pages, which would make it a nice reference book, on top of a nice front-to-back read, but the essays are horrible in writing, material chosen and organization. In attempting to adehere to principles that maintain that science is a universal (global) phenomenon, possessing a nebulous definition of what science really is, she really loses perspective of the central subject, that is, science. I challenge anyone to randomly crack into this book, read the essay, and then tally how many bits of information you get about science versus something that is not science. I assure you, each essay talks more about context (or something having nothing to do with science) than anything that can be remotely considered "science." Now, context is not bad, but Fara fails to make further references to why the context is important to the science or scientists. (note:I was anticipating the goal of this book to be the association of such a context with the history of science.) If You would like to read about the times of, say Kepler, you would be better served in reading a book on the years in which that person lived.

I read each section of this book, thinking, "What does any of this have to do with the title of the section?" At times, Fara makes more references to comparative literature of the times than she does to the science and scientists. At other times, I feel as though this book is a nothing more than a published set of notes, because it seems so chaotic in its assortment.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SpartinStuff on December 18, 2013
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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