A companion to such acclaimed works as The Age of Wonder, A Clockwork Universe, and Darwin’s Ghosts—a groundbreaking examination of the greatest event in history, the Scientific Revolution, and how it came to change the way we understand ourselves and our world.
We live in a world transformed by scientific discovery. Yet today, science and its practitioners have come under political attack. In this fascinating history spanning continents and centuries, historian David Wootton offers a lively defense of science, revealing why the Scientific Revolution was truly the greatest event in our history.
The Invention of Science goes back five hundred years in time to chronicle this crucial transformation, exploring the factors that led to its birth and the people who made it happen. Wootton argues that the Scientific Revolution was actually five separate yet concurrent events that developed independently, but came to intersect and create a new worldview. Here are the brilliant iconoclasts—Galileo, Copernicus, Brahe, Newton, and many more curious minds from across Europe—whose studies of the natural world challenged centuries of religious orthodoxy and ingrained superstition.
From gunpowder technology, the discovery of the new world, movable type printing, perspective painting, and the telescope to the practice of conducting experiments, the laws of nature, and the concept of the fact, Wotton shows how these discoveries codified into a social construct and a system of knowledge. Ultimately, he makes clear the link between scientific discovery and the rise of industrialization—and the birth of the modern world we know.
This substantive narrative of human progress is engaging and well constructed for the general science or history reader. Wooton (Galileo: Watcher of the Skies), professor of history at the University of York, makes a powerful, though currently unpopular, case against a Wittgensteinian historical relativism that sees science as entirely a social construct, changing gradually and continuously since antiquity. Wooton argues instead for viewing the period between 1572 and 1704 as a scientific revolution in a true sense, during which multiple strands of thought, technology, and culture came together in unexpected ways to transform human understanding of the physical world the "triumph of Newtonianism," which still informs modern research and dialogue. Analysis of primary texts from key philosophers as well as chronological details of their development and use of instrumentation sit beside broader-reaching approaches that explore linguistic change over time, how perspective-drawing techniques influenced astronomy, the ways the printing press helped form critical communities, and social analyses of the "mathematization of nature" and the decline of the appeal to authority, among other topics. Wooton's arguments stand effectively on their own, making the final chapters directed at his historian colleagues feel like bloated academic infighting. Illus.