The ascent of science

by Brian L. Silver
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The Ascent of Science is a remarkable achievement: a concise, informative, and easily readable book that breathes life into an often dry, impenetrable subject. The lengthy text spans several centuries of scientific discovery and theory, from the Renaissance to the nineties--it even looks to the future. This is also a who's who of major scientific players throughout history: Voltaire, Newton, Bacon, and Einstein, among others. But don't be put off by the prospect of information overload--author Brian Silver remains succinct and engaging throughout, and even highly complex areas such as relativity and chaos are made accessible by Silver's wit and energy. This is more than a primer on science; Silver contextualizes science within the philosophy and politics of past and present times. Of particular fascination is the Renaissance era, when scientific reasoning was equated with a violation against God. Descartes was accused of fostering atheism, because of his belief that God's role was as creator of the universe only, and not as "mover of the planets." (Descartes's books were banned by the Catholic church in 1663.) Although Silver died prior to the publication of The Ascent of Science, his book remains a lasting testament to his love for science and his remarkable ability to open up this world to everyone.

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