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The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution Hardcover – March 22, 2011
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From the Inside Flap
Maybe the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark After All
Here are some facts you probably didn’t learn in school:
People in the Middle Ages did not think the world was flatin fact, medieval scholars could prove it wasn’t
The Inquisition never executed anyone because of their scientific ideas or discoveries (actually, the Church was the chief sponsor of scientific research and several popes were celebrated for their knowledge of the subject)
It was medieval scientific discoveries, methods, and principles that made possible Western civilization’s Scientific Revolution”
If you were taught that the Middle Ages were a time of intellectual stagnation, superstition, and ignorance, you were taught a myth that has been utterly refuted by modern scholarship.
As a physicist and historian of science James Hannam shows in his brilliant new book, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, that without the scholarship of the barbaric” Middle Ages, modern science simply would not exist.
The Middle Ages were a time of one intellectual triumph after another. As Dr. Hannam writes, The people of medieval Europe invented spectacles, the mechanical clock, the windmill, and the blast furnace by themselves. Lenses and cameras, almost all kinds of machinery, and the industrial revolution itself all owe their origins to the forgotten inventors of the Middle Ages.”
In The Genesis of Science you will discover
Why the scientific accomplishments of the Middle Ages far surpassed those of the classical world
How medieval craftsmen and scientists not only made discoveries of their own, but seized upon Eastern inventionsprinting, gunpowder, and the compassand improved them beyond the dreams of their originators
How Galileo’s notorious trial before the Inquisition was about politics, not science
Why the theology of the Catholic Church, far from being an impediment, led directly to the development of modern science
Provocative, engaging, and a terrific read, James Hannam’s Genesis of Science will change the way you think about our pastand our future.
From the Back Cover
"With an engaging fervour, James Hannam has set about rescuing the reputation of a bunch of half-forgotten thinkers, and he shows how they paved the way for modern science." --Boris Johnson, Mail on Sunday
"This book contains much valuable material summarised with commendable no-nonsense clarity...James Hannam has done a fine job of knocking down an old caricature." --Sunday Telegraph
"Hannam, the liveliest of guides, makes enjoyable reading out of some seriously dusty history and difficult ideas." --Scotsman
"Here, in short, is a readable book, aimed at an intelligent but ignorant layman. You'll enjoy it." --Daniel Hannan MEP, Daily Telegraph
"A very useful general survey of a difficult topic, and a robust defence of an unfairly maligned age." --Spectator
Top Customer Reviews
It is the latest entry in a controversy with a history of its own. Hannam tells of the myth that "there was no science worth mentioning in the Middle Ages," and "the Church held back what meagre advances were made." These beliefs took flower as late as the 19th century with Thomas Henry Huxley, John William Draper, and Andrew Dickson White, who tried to paint religion as the enemy of science. Their story has been told often; Hannam himself has blogged on it.
A.D. White's part is particularly unfortunate, in that he produced a highly influential, heavily footnoted, apparently scholarly tome on the historic warfare between science and religion. Hannam assesses his work this way:
"Anyone who checks his references will wonder how he could have maintained his opinions if he had read as much as he claimed to have done."
Others have treated White less gently than that.Read more ›
The result is a silly series of myths and misunderstandings. I have on several occasions thrown my hands up in despair when people refuses to accept that no serious scientist (or natural philosopher as it was called in those days) in the Middle Ages believed that the earth was flat or was persecuted by The Church for their science. Or that anything of value really happened between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance.
The myths perpetuated in the 19th century by people like Draper and White surface also in bestsellers by Carl Sagan, Daniel Boorstin, William Manchester and Charles Freeman to name a few.
Even if historians of science like Lindberg and Numbers long have shown that Draper and White rarely get it right, and e.g. Grant has described the positive effects of the Medieval Age on western rationality, James Hannam gives it all an illuminating and sometimes amusing spin.
"The Genesis of Science" combines a thorough knowledge of the period with an engaging readability. Persons and politics are made alive, from the early middle ages to the various minor renaissances and recoverings of ancient learning, especially in the Twelfth Century.
The story is well told about how Aristotle's pagan science was christianised and why Oxford philosophers like Grosseteste, Bacon and Ockham were so influential. As well as the efforts to correct the errors of Aristotle by the so called Merton Calculators.
Hannam also gives us a pretty good idea why people came to dismiss the period.Read more ›
In "The Genesis of Science" Hannan argues persuasively that real science started in the west during the Middle Ages.
And the cornerstone for the development of science was "the invention of the university" (p 66. Universities were open to all. The courses centered on logic, reason, and natural philosophy, essentially giving every student a background in logic and the basics of science.
There was constant cross pollination between science and theological debates. As Hanan explains, "Many theologians also wrote important works of natural philosophy, and they considered the subject an essential part of their training" (p 347.
In addition to the thousands of inventions and the spreading knowledge of science, the Middle Ages also created the concept of rights, which stemmed directly from Christian theology.
The fact that modern science did not spring like Athena from the minds of men like Kepler and Galileo around 1600 is not really a surprise. And Dr. Hannam does a nice job discussing some of the important precursors like the rise of universities and the translations into Latin of classical texts during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. He takes us through an entire series of important men and their discoveries of the period from about 1200 - 1600, which is very well done and fascinating. But he seems to overreach a bit. Despite his claim that important things were going on from 476 - 1200, apart from a few scattered names and small achievements, the Dark Ages still seem pretty dark for about 700 years.
As for the Church, Dr. Hannam tries his best to make the medieval institution the incubator of knowledge that will bring modern science to life. In this he is less successful. That the Church often played a positive role in the development of universities and the recovery of classical knowledge is true. On the other hand, his argument that the Inquisition wasn't as bad is it is made out to be or that men like Bruno and Galileo brought many of their problems on themselves while true to a certain extent, doesn't really exonerate the Church.
Overall, however, Dr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First off, I enjoyed this book immensely. The author's breezy and conversational style makes for a very pleasant experience and I was glad to have the opportunity to learn about... Read morePublished 19 days ago by alkahest
Busts long held myths and sets the record straight. Well researched and writen. An important contribution to a more fair and balanced approach to understanding our past and hence... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Michael B. Dipietro
A must read for anyone who is ignorant of the academic achievements in the Dark and Middle AgesPublished 4 months ago by John Quin
I have read the introduction to this book and was bemused by its tone and apparent complaisance to the rampant suppression and oppression of free thinkers by the Church during the... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Tam Hunt
The book is OK, but superficial from my personal point of view. Many disconnected anecdotes, where we are told more about biographic details than about the role of a particular... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jorge Soberon
One thing I very much appreciated about this book is that it is not only scholarly, but it is also disinterested. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Bobby Bambino
This book is a "quick read," if you skip the author's chatty attempts to summarize the wider history and culture of the ancient and medieval worlds and, more specifically,... Read morePublished 20 months ago by M. Cotone
I loved this book and recomend it to any one wanting to know the history of science and its interaction witht the church over the years.Published on October 21, 2014 by ojisama