Since the Enlightenment, alchemy has been viewed as a sort of antiscience, disparaged by many historians as a form of lunacy that impeded the development of rational chemistry. But in Atoms and Alchemy, William R. Newman—a historian widely credited for reviving recent interest in alchemy—exposes the speciousness of these views and challenges widely held beliefs about the origins of the Scientific Revolution.
Tracing the alchemical roots of Robert Boyle’s famous mechanical philosophy, Newman shows that alchemy contributed to the mechanization of nature, a movement that lay at the very heart of scientific discovery. Boyle and his predecessors—figures like the mysterious medieval Geber or the Lutheran professor Daniel Sennert—provided convincing experimental proof that matter is made up of enduring particles at the microlevel. At the same time, Newman argues that alchemists created the operational criterion of an “atomic” element as the last point of analysis, thereby contributing a key feature to the development of later chemistry. Atomsand Alchemy thus provokes a refreshing debate about the origins of modern science and will be welcomed—and deliberated—by all who are interested in the development of scientific theory and practice.
Since the time of Aristotle, the making of knowledge and the making of objects have generally been considered separate enterprises. Yet during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the two became linked through a "new" philosophy known as science. In The Body of the Artisan, Pamela H. Smith demonstrates how much early modern science owed to an unlikely source-artists and artisans.
From goldsmiths to locksmiths and from carpenters to painters, artists and artisans were much sought after by the new scientists for their intimate, hands-on knowledge of natural materials and the ability to manipulate them. Drawing on a fascinating array of new evidence from northern Europe including artisans' objects and their writings, Smith shows how artisans saw all knowledge as rooted in matter and nature. With nearly two hundred images, The Body of the Artisan provides astonishingly vivid examples of this Renaissance synergy among art, craft, and science, and recovers a forgotten episode of the Scientific Revolution-an episode that forever altered the way we see the natural world.
Although the Scientific Revolution has long been regarded as the beginning of modern science, there has been little consensus about its true character. While the application of mathematics to the study of the natural world has always been recognized as an important factor, the role of experiment has been less clearly understood.
Peter Dear investigates the nature of the change that occurred during this period, focusing particular attention on evolving notions of experience and how these developed into the experimental work that is at the center of modern science. He examines seventeenth-century mathematical sciences—astronomy, optics, and mechanics—not as abstract ideas, but as vital enterprises that involved practices related to both experience and experiment. Dear illuminates how mathematicians and natural philosophers of the period—Mersenne, Descartes, Pascal, Barrow, Newton, Boyle, and the Jesuits—used experience in their argumentation, and how and why these approaches changed over the course of a century. Drawing on mathematical texts and works of natural philosophy from all over Europe, he describes a process of change that was gradual, halting, sometimes contradictory—far from the sharp break with intellectual tradition implied by the term "revolution."
Both the quest for natural knowledge and the aspiration to alchemical wisdom played crucial roles in the Scientific Revolution, as William R. Newman demonstrates in this fascinating book about George Starkey (1628-1665), America's first famous scientist. Beginning with Starkey's unusual education in colonial New England, Newman traces out his many interconnected careers—natural philosopher, alchemist, chemist, medical practitioner, economic projector, and creator of the fabulous adept, "Eirenaeus Philalethes." Newman reveals the profound impact Starkey had on the work of Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Samuel Hartlib, and other key thinkers in the realm of early modern science.
Amid the unrest, dislocation, and uncertainty of seventeenth-century Europe, readers seeking consolation and assurance turned to philosophical and scientific books that offered ways of conquering fears and training the mind—guidance for living a good life.
The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution presents a triptych showing how three key early modern scientists, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and Gottfried Leibniz, envisioned their new work as useful for cultivating virtue and for pursuing a good life. Their scientific and philosophical innovations stemmed in part from their understanding of mathematics and science as cognitive and spiritual exercises that could create a truer mental and spiritual nobility. In portraying the rich contexts surrounding Descartes’ geometry, Pascal’s arithmetical triangle, and Leibniz’s calculus, Matthew L. Jones argues that this drive for moral therapeutics guided important developments of early modern philosophy and the Scientific Revolution.
The Monster in the Machine tracks the ways in which human beings were defined in contrast to supernatural and demonic creatures during the time of the Scientific Revolution. Zakiya Hanafi recreates scenes of Italian life and culture from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries to show how monsters were conceptualized at this particular locale and historical juncture—a period when the sacred was being supplanted by a secular, decidedly nonmagical way of looking at the world. Noting that the word “monster” is derived from the Latin for “omen” or “warning,” Hanafi explores the monster’s early identity as a portent or messenger from God. Although monsters have always been considered “whatever we are not,” they gradually were tranformed into mechanical devices when new discoveries in science and medicine revealed the mechanical nature of the human body. In analyzing the historical literature of monstrosity, magic, and museum collections, Hanafi uses contemporary theory and the philosophy of technology to illuminate the timeless significance of the monster theme. She elaborates the association between women and the monstrous in medical literature and sheds new light on the work of Vico—particularly his notion of the conatus—by relating it to Vico’s own health. By explicating obscure and fascinating texts from such disciplines as medicine and poetics, she invites the reader to the piazzas and pulpits of seventeenth-century Naples, where poets, courtiers, and Jesuit preachers used grotesque figures of speech to captivate audiences with their monstrous wit. Drawing from a variety of texts from medicine, moral philosophy, and poetics, Hanafi’s guided tour through this baroque museum of ideas will interest readers in comparative literature, Italian literature, history of ideas, history of science, art history, poetics, women’s studies, and philosophy.
The Scientific Revolution
Steven Shapin University of Chicago Press, 2018 Library of Congress Q125.S5166 2018 | Dewey Decimal 509
“There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it.” With this provocative and apparently paradoxical claim, Steven Shapin begins his bold, vibrant exploration of the origins of the modern scientific worldview, now updated with a new bibliographic essay featuring the latest scholarship.
“An excellent book.”—Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review
“Timely and highly readable. . . . A book which every scientist curious about our predecessors should read.”—Trevor Pinch, New Scientist
“Shapin's account is informed, nuanced, and articulated with clarity. . . . This is not to attack or devalue science but to reveal its richness as the human endeavor that it most surely is. . . . Shapin's book is an impressive achievement.”—David C. Lindberg, Science
“It's hard to believe that there could be a more accessible, informed or concise account. . . . The Scientific Revolution should be a set text in all the disciplines. And in all the indisciplines, too.”—Adam Phillips, London Review of Books
The Scientific Revolution
Steven Shapin University of Chicago Press, 1996 Library of Congress Q125.S5166 1996 | Dewey Decimal 509
"There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it." With this provocative and apparently paradoxical claim, Steven Shapin begins his bold vibrant exploration of the origins of the modern scientific worldview.
"Shapin's account is informed, nuanced, and articulated with clarity. . . . This is not to attack or devalue science but to reveal its richness as the human endeavor that it most surely is. . . .Shapin's book is an impressive achievement."—David C. Lindberg, Science
"Shapin has used the crucial 17th century as a platform for presenting the power of science-studies approaches. At the same time, he has presented the period in fresh perspective."—Chronicle of Higher Education
"Timely and highly readable . . . A book which every scientist curious about our predecessors should read."—Trevor Pinch, New Scientist
"It's hard to believe that there could be a more accessible, informed or concise account of how it [the scientific revolution], and we have come to this. The Scientific Revolution should be a set text in all the disciplines. And in all the indisciplines, too."—Adam Phillips, London Review of Books
"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."—Publishers Weekly
"Superlative, accessible, and engaging. . . . Absolute must-reading."—Robert S. Frey, Bridges
"This vibrant historical exploration of the origins of modern science argues that in the 1600s science emerged from a variety of beliefs, practices, and influences. . . . This history reminds us that diversity is part of any intellectual endeavor."—Choice
"Most readers will conclude that there was indeed something dramatic enough to be called the Scientific Revolution going on, and that this is an excellent book about it."—Anthony Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review
In this first book-length historiographical study of the Scientific Revolution, H. Floris Cohen examines the body of work on the intellectual, social, and cultural origins of early modern science. Cohen critically surveys a wide range of scholarship since the nineteenth century, offering new perspectives on how the Scientific Revolution changed forever the way we understand the natural world and our place in it.
Cohen's discussions range from scholarly interpretations of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, to the question of why the Scientific Revolution took place in seventeenth-century Western Europe, rather than in ancient Greece, China, or the Islamic world. Cohen contends that the emergence of early modern science was essential to the rise of the modern world, in the way it fostered advances in technology.
A valuable entrée to the literature on the Scientific Revolution, this book assesses both a controversial body of scholarship, and contributes to understanding how modern science came into the world.