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The Ascent of Science Paperback – April 6, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0195134278 ISBN-10: 0195134273 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1ST edition (April 6, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195134273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195134278
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 8.2 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Ascent of Science is a remarkable achievement: a concise, informative, and easily readable book that breathes life into an often dry, impenetrable subject. The lengthy text spans several centuries of scientific discovery and theory, from the Renaissance to the nineties--it even looks to the future. This is also a who's who of major scientific players throughout history: Voltaire, Newton, Bacon, and Einstein, among others. But don't be put off by the prospect of information overload--author Brian Silver remains succinct and engaging throughout, and even highly complex areas such as relativity and chaos are made accessible by Silver's wit and energy. This is more than a primer on science; Silver contextualizes science within the philosophy and politics of past and present times. Of particular fascination is the Renaissance era, when scientific reasoning was equated with a violation against God. Descartes was accused of fostering atheism, because of his belief that God's role was as creator of the universe only, and not as "mover of the planets." (Descartes's books were banned by the Catholic church in 1663.) Although Silver died prior to the publication of The Ascent of Science, his book remains a lasting testament to his love for science and his remarkable ability to open up this world to everyone. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The author of this massive work has two objectives: to explain the major scientific developments from earliest time through today in nontechnical terms and to set science in its social perspective?including its effects on the relationship of humanity to society, our self-image, and our ideas of God. Silver (physical chemistry, Israel Inst. of Technology) has succeeded in both areas, although his history of science and technical explanations seem to be more coherently organized and presented. His analogies to explain difficult or esoteric scientific areas often make his explanations remarkably clear, for example, his explanation of the mechanics of "doping" semi-conductors. Silver's opinions and sense of humor are evident throughout the book, and the footnotes contain a substantial share of personal references and interpretations. The breadth of Silver's coverage of the philosophers of science as well as the historians is also impressive. Recommended for all libraries.?Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I would recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the legancy of western science.
dickason@pol.net
It puts things in perspective and will make reading any other popular science book or work of philosophy a greater experience.
The cLuMzter
Also he has a good sense of humour, and with illustrations, helps keep the book fresh as you read.
Mark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Todd I. Stark VINE VOICE on March 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written, entertaining, and educational tour of the history of ideas of modern science. It seems to have been a serious attempt to provide a single relatively encyclopedic overview of the concepts central to our modern exploration of nature, in a cohesive intellectual framework, and thus tell "the story of science."
In an ending chapter called "What the Devil Does It All Mean ?" the author remarks, "Most of the main concepts of modern science are familiar to the man in the street as the language of the Aztecs." In an age when it is becoming more important than ever to be making informed decisions about our most powerful tools and how they are to be used, scientific ignorance is surprisingly the rule, and attitudes toward science are in general rarely either balanced or informed.
Silver addreses this book to the education of "HMS," his abbreviation throughout for "l'homme moyen sensuel," or "the sensual average man," the usual person-in-the-street, but with their hormones and passions intact. As Silver describes his intended audience, they are curious, but remember little or nothing of the math and science they learned in school. They are suspicious of jargon, are worried about the future of the planet, are more streetwise than the average scientist, and may enjoy a glass of single-malt whiskey at the end of the day.
This is a truly excellent book introducing modern science, in a very gut-level way, in its dual role as both a compendium of cultural knowledge and a powerful philosophy of nature. Silver is a superb writer and covers a lot of relevant intellectual history in a very readable and entertaining way.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By The cLuMzter on April 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is by far one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to popular science. I started with books like "A Brief History of Time", "Hyperspace", "The Elegant Universe", "What Evolution is", "The Red Queen" and so forth. I stumbled onto this book accidently on Amazon and when I got it in the mail and opened it up I said, "Oh my gosh - it's a text book". Well first of all looks are deceiving. I sat down and read it and let me tell you it truly was an adventure. If you read philosophy as well you will embrace it even more so. It puts things in perspective and will make reading any other popular science book or work of philosophy a greater experience. This book is a hidden treasure. I know this is a personal rewiew, but trust what the other reviewers say ... they are right.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By unraveler on February 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I liked the book. In some chapters the science and its great personalities really come alive. Silver's high level of intelligence comes through quickly and forcefully, and he shows himself to be a rational, thoughtful person--also someone who is astute and realistic. He has compassion and a sense of humor; his irony is sharp but appropriate--he does not come across as a condescending high-brow academic.
All this said, the book is not without its challenges. Some chapters could have been presented in a much more interesting fashion. This is true, for example of the chapters on chaos theory and relativity. There is something else. This book contains, especially in its first half, a muffled protest and anger against religion. Not everyone may have noticed that: Silver was trying to be measured and objective, but his numerous examples of abuses and mistakes perpetrated by religious officials and the context in which these examples are used say a lot for those who can listen. In the second half of the book, these hits on the head of religion practically disappear, but Silver the person comes through a little bit too strongly for a book that is supposed to be about the rise of science. Although I believe he was a very good and intelligent man, he gives us too much of himself for this particular type of book. There are some minor points as well: for example, I am certain he misinterpreted Bertand Russell's criticism of Pragmatism. Overall, if you are interested in many different areas of science and curious about how they have emerged, buy this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Layne Johnson (layne@xpressweb.com) on November 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Silver's book is a history of the key discoveries in science. Filled with humor and humanity, it entertains as it educates. I'm not kidding about the humor - sometimes I laughed until it hurt!
Who would I reccommend this book to? Well, everybody! A reader with a strong scientific background will find it a useful reference, full of names, dates, and figures. Readers who didn't pay that much attention in school will finish each chapter of the book by saying "so THAT'S how scientists know that!"
From the fun footnotes about the little-known quirky habits of some famous scientists, to the easy to understand explanations of terminology, to the fair and equitable arguments about the ethics of applied science today, there's a real treasure of knowledge between the covers.
Trust me, READ THIS BOOK.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. I have read it twice, and enjoyed it immensely each time. I am sure I will read it again.
This book was written to explain the entire spectrum of science to the man in the street, but the author does it so well, and so cleverly, and in such a pleasing manner, that it can be enjoyed by readers with a scientific or engineering background who are already familiar with its central ideas.
The originality of its explanations reveal an author with great insight into the workings of Nature. I know of no other book of this kind that is so well done. The charming and light-hearted manner of the writing is a further plus.
This is a book you keep forever.
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