My latest read is God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam. It’s been much more interesting than it sounds!!
It’s shortlisted for the Royal Society’s annual science book prize, and was the one on their shortlist that most interested me. For me, it was a fascinating insight into some of the medieval minds that I’ve heard of, but never learned much about – so it progresses from Boethius, through St Anselm, Columbus, Erasmus and ends with the death of Galileo. There’s also the medieval love story of Eloise and Abelard. It certainly dispels some of the myths about medieval science, such as a widespread belief in a flat earth. Theology seems even to have been thought of as “the queen of the sciences”, and the medieval church had a distinct role in progressing science and knowledge given its support of major universities and relgious orders. It’s a bit philosophy heavy, unsurprising given the title, and the fact that much early science, or natural philosophy, relied on the arguments put forward by Aristotle, Plato and their successors, but provides some surprising insights into the so-called “Dark Ages”, and how knowledge was taken forward between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance.
- Win the best science books of the year (newscientist.com)
- The great and the (quite) good: best books of 2009 (newscientist.com)