In Science, Patricia Fara rewrites science’s past to provide new ways of understanding and questioning our modern technological society. Aiming not just to provide information but to make people think, this unique book explores how science has become so powerful by describing the financial interests and imperial ambitions behind its success.
Sweeping through the centuries from ancient Babylon right up to the latest hi-tech experiments in genetics and particle physics, Fara’s book also ranges internationally, challenging notions of European superiority by emphasising the importance of scientific projects based around the world, including revealing discussions of China and the Islamic Empire alongside the more familiar stories about Copernicus’s sun-centered astronomy, Newton’s gravity, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. We see for instance how Muslim leaders encouraged science by building massive libraries, hospitals, and astronomical observatories and we rediscover the significance of medieval Europe–long overlooked–where, surprisingly, religious institutions ensured science’s survival, as the learning preserved in monasteries was subsequently developed in new and unique institutions: universities. Instead of focussing on esoteric experiments and abstract theories, she explains how science belongs to the practical world of war, politics and business. And rather than glorifying scientists as idealized heroes, she tells true stories about real people–men (and some women) who needed to earn their living, who made mistakes, and who trampled down their rivals.
Finally, this provocative volume challenges scientific supremacy itself, arguing that science is successful not because it is always indubitably right, but because people have said that it is right. Science dominates modern life, but perhaps the globe will be better off by limiting science’s powers and undoing some of its effects.
“Dismantling popular myths, taking a truly global view and dispensing with false idols, Fara’s highly readable survey of science’s histories is a breath of fresh air. She unerringly pinpoints the defining moods of each age, treating the past with respect and the present with discernment. This wonderfully literate book tells a story that is far, far more interesting than the tidy fictions of hindsight.” — Philip Ball, Consultant Editor of Nature
“It’s been a very long time since any reputable historian of science had the desire, the knowledge, or the nerve to undertake a book like this– an attempt to survey the development of science from Antiquity to the present, notably including non-European materials. Patricia Fara has succeeded: Science is an elegant and compact creative synthesis of the piecemeal researches of generations of academic historians. It deserves the widest possible readership.” – Steven Shapin, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard, and author of The Scientific Revolution
Patricia Fara lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge and is the Senior Tutor of Clare College. She is the author of numerous books, including Fatal Attraction: Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment and Newton: The Making of Genius. Her writing has appeared in History Today, New Scientist, Nature, The Times and New Statesman, and she writes a regular column on scientific portraits for Endeavour.
Books by the same author Fatal Attraction: Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara. Published: 2005 Publisher: Icon Books Price: L9.99 Pandora’s Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara. Published: 2004 Publisher: Pimlico Price: L12.99 Sex, Botany and Empire; the Stories of Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks by Patricia Fara. Published: 2003 Publisher: Icon Books Price: L6.99 Newton: the Making of Genius by Patricia Fara. Published: 2002 Publisher: Macmillan Price: L20 An Entertainment for Angels: Electricity in the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara. Publish