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This book sets everything up with a concise account of the kinds of nonsense and "old wives' tales" people believed back in the Middle Ages. It's important to note that people in those times weren't stupid, but superstition permeated everything, and society kept locks on the doors of advancement for a long time, often out of fear. And then little by little, some brave and brilliant minds risked ridicule or worse and slowly unlocked the secrets that transformed our understanding and gave birth to modern science. This is that story of what they did, how they did it, and some of the drama that unfolded because of it. That drama is precisely why I make the remark in the title of this review. This book will reveal that the Dark Ages weren't quite so dark, the Enlightenment wasn't that enlightening, and yet we made it this far in spite of ourselves because of the chain of events that did transpire. It's an interesting account that fills in some of the story behind the story.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful
I hesitated to buy this one after reading the reviews, so I felt obliged to offer a counter opinion. I thought the book excellent and the narration quite tolerable. While the author centers on the great calculus debate between Newton and Leibniz and tosses in a lot of anecdotal history, the book also functions as a very good primer on the foundations of modern science, treating it as the elaboration and application of mathematics to physical phenomena. The crucial step represented by a mathematics of motion is a central theme. His descriptions of the calculus and the weird conceptual innovation Newton called ???gravity??? are really very good and surprisingly clear in narration without any visual aids. He also paints a vivid picture of the physical and metaphysical worlds of the 17th century, including a welcome insistence on the essential role of religious faith, even mysticism, in the thinking of the early modern scientists. As to the narration, I can see why some people might find it slightly irritating. The reader has a plumy voice that dips into avuncular chuckles at points of irony, which can be a bit annoying. But I found the pace and tone very good for comprehension overall. The lives of Newton and Leibniz make a marvelous story, and unless you are already familiar with them you will probably enjoy this book.
141 of 147 people found this review helpful
I am interested in this period in history and this book provided lots of interesting details. However, at times it seemed to jump about a bit and I was not so comfortable with this lack of a strong flowing narrative
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book for giving the gist of one of the most important periods in scientific history. While I think all of the things presented here are true, the tone is sometimes overly simplistic. In other words, it is a fantastic story, but not told with the proper degree of complexity and nuance.