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The Scientific Revolution
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"There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it," says Shapin, a professor of sociology at U.C., San Diego in his introduction, "There was, rather, a diverse array of cultural practices aimed at understanding explaining, and controlling the natural world." Shapin's treatise on the currents that engendered modern science is a combination of history and philosophy of science for the interested and educated layperson, and it is indeed considerably more readable than many of the other philosophy of science books currently available. Several puzzling aspects of the writings of 16th- and 17th-century scientists are put into new perspective in his section titled: "Science as Religion's Handmaid." There are three basic sections of the book: "What Was Known?" covers major differences between the "new knowledge" of the scientific revolution and received wisdom of the ancients. "How Was It Known?" covers sources of authority (e.g., books or experience) and some of the experimental groundwork of major players such as Boyle and Galileo. And "What Was The Knowledge For?" explores the interactions of the new science with the political, religious and cultural dimensions of the European society in which it was embedded. This slim book would have benefited from a deeper consideration of the rivalry between English and Continental science (and scientists) and the relationship of the new science to the design and production of war machines. But Shapin does help the reader understand the direct intellectual link between that time and our own. Illustrations, all taken from original sources, add a nice touch. (Nov.)

Most history texts teach that the "birth" of modern science occurred between Copernicus in the mid-16th century and Newton in the late 17th century. Shapin (social science, Univ. of California, San Diego) synthesizes a broad collection of scholarship in concluding that what happened during that period was profound but hardly so jarring and abrupt as to be called a "scientific revolution." Rather, the development of a new, naturalistic philosophy was part of a continuous process with antecedents in the Middle Ages, one that still affects how we think about the world today. The author focuses in particular on some of the key figures of the era‘Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and Newton, for example‘in showing how their attitudes toward science manifested these values. Accessible to a general reader, this book would be valuable for any history of science collection.‘Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.

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