The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics

9780090602131: The Fabric of the Heavens: The Development of Astronomy and Dynamics

Conceived as three companion volumes that form an introduction to the central ideas of the modern natural sciences, these books—intelligent, informative, and accessible—are an excellent source for those who have no technical knowledge of the subject.

Praise for The Fabric of the Heavens:

"I cannot remember when I last went through a book, any book, with such all-devouring zest. What is more, even the most complex technicalities are reduced to a positively crystalline clarity: If I can understand them, anyone can. The Fabric of the Heavens is, in every sense of the word, an eye-opener."—Peter Green, The Yorkshire Post

"Not until the last chapter of the book is [the reader] allowed to think again wholly as a modern man has become accustomed, by common sense, to think. The discipline is admirably suited to the authors' task, and cunningly devised for the reader's edification—and, indeed, for his delight."— Physics Today

Praise for The Architecture of Matter:

" The Architecture of Matter is to be warmly recommended. It is that rare achievement, a lively book which at the same time takes the fullest possible advantage of scholarly knowledge."—Charles C. Gillespie, New York Times Book Review

"One is impressed by the felicity of the examples and by the lively clarity with which significant experiments and ideas are explained. . . . No other history of science is so consistently challenging."— Scientific American

Praise for The Discovery of Time:

"A subject of absorbing interest . . . is presented not as a history of science, but as a chapter in the history of ideas from the ancient Greeks to our own time."— Times Literary Supplement

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The story of our relationship with the stars and their celestial cousins is long, involving, and full of surprises. The Fabric of the Heavens, by science historians Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, outlines thinking about astronomy and dynamics from "pre-theoretical" Babylonian times to the Newtonian revolution that seeded our modern conceptions of space. Fully integrating the two cultures of science and the humanities, the authors find evidence of new thinking in Milton's writing and medieval tapestries as well as classic scientific and pre-scientific works. Using language that is beautiful, compelling and precise, they trace the threads of history which are woven into today's science (which, they predict, will find itself woven into something even more startlingly unrecognisable in years hence).

Why were the ancients so fascinated by the sky and stars? Interestingly, it seems that their concerns were mostly practical; theological significance took longer to attach itself to the patterns up above. Agricultural and navigational concerns, once resolved, gave way to deeper philosophical, mythological and religious curiosity--which used the mathematical tools of its predecessors to great effect. The lives and works of Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo and Newton are all thoroughly explored, and it is easier to see the continuity between them and their contemporaries in the breadth of this writing. First published in 1962, The Fabric of the Heavens was one of the first postmodern studies of the development of physical science; even were it not such a pleasure to read, it would still merit careful study. --Rob Lightner

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