Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, by Edward Dolnick (author), Alan Sklar (narrator)

 Audible Studios, February 2011

This is a lively and entertaining history of science in the 17th century, and the birth of the science that helped make the modern world. He gives us a history of the birth of modern mathematics and the science it enabled, including, but not only, modern astronomy. It's filled with not just the achievements but the personalities of Kepler, Galileo, Tycho, Leibnitz, Newton, Halley, and others. Both the achievements and the e egotistical silliness are on display here.

Unfortunately, Dolnick seems to be a better science writer than a historian. He speaks of these men having been born in a medieval world of faith, revealed truth, and predestination as if the preceding century of the had never happened. 
In support of this, he quotes Jonathan Edwards--who was a New England Puritan preacher, i.e., one of the notable leaders in the 18th century of a sect that left England in the 17th century because they were Dissenters, unable to practice their religion without harassment in England. Neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic Church did or ever has embraced predestination. 

He says people didn't bathe because they believed it would make them sick. Well, early modern English didn't bathe as often as contemporary people do--because they didn't have hot and cold running water, or indoor plumbing. Water had to be drawn from the pump or the well, heated, put into the bathtub, and that was an awful lot of work. It's one thing if you have servants to do that for you, and another thing if you have to do that yourself.

And then, as a practical matter, many families had to share the same tub of water, bathing very quickly to let everyone bathe before it cooled--and that might be entirely healthy. A great way to pass illness around the entire family.

Yeah. They wanted to be clean. Bathing wasn't the obvious and easy thing it is for us.

Dolnick doesn't seem to have a good grasp of the world he's writing about.

The science, though, and the math, as far as my knowledge goes, he does well with that, It's interesting, lively, and really gives a great sense of the personalities of the people involved.

So, recommended with the above caveats.

I bought this audiobook.

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