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Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science from the Babylonians to the Mayans

3.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  188 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Lost Discoveries,Dick Teresi's innovative history of science, explores the unheralded scientific breakthroughs from peoples of the ancient world -- Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, Africans, New World and Oceanic tribes, among others -- and the non-European medieval world. They left an enormous heritage in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, ...more
Published November 5th 2002 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2002)
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Mar 26, 2010 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book on how modern science and mathematics, long believed to have come purely from Greek roots, in fact arose from a much broader base of ancient cultures, including Babylonia, India, China and the Arab world as well as Greece. There is much to be learned here.

Unfortunately, the level of scholarship in the book leaves something to be desired. For instance, the critical early sections on mathematics are based almost entirely on letters and emails from two colleagues -- Kapl
Mar 30, 2012 Silver rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It was difficult to decide how to rate this book, because while on the one hand I did thoroughly enjoy reading the book as I found the subject matter to be truly fascinating, on the other hand I found that the way in which the content was presented left something to be desired.

While the content within the book is truly interesting the author presents it in a less than interesting way making the reading at points a bit dry and difficult to grind through. Teresi may be knowledgeable and a good re
Dec 13, 2012 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
LOST DISCOVERIES: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science – from the Babylonians to the Maya. (2002). Dick Teresi. *****.
This is an excellent survey of the early history of various sciences, from Mathematics and Astronomy to Physics and Chemistry, that was discovered or developed by ancient civilizations that existed outside of our known Western worlds. Examples of the discoveries of basic principles by early peoples that later turn up as part of the Western canon are provided by this author in gre
Dec 23, 2009 Christopher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was an interesting read so close after Carnage and Culture. While the two books don't address exactly the same topic, Lost Discoveries does show how pernicious the Western bias is in many academic works. It's this bias that makes me all the more suspicious of the assertions in 'Carnage'.What kind of surprised me was just how recent the Western bias is. The ancient Greeks gave copious credit to the earlier Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations for their thoughts in mathematics, astronomy, ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thesis candidates
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I was excited to read this for the topic but was pretty disappointed. This book challenges the notion that the scientific method sprang fully-formed from Greek (western) civilization from a man who started with exactly that premise before starting his research. I wouldn't recommend slogging through the whole thing - particularly the cosmology section is a drag to read (surprising considering it is a mash-up of origin tales & modern science) - rather, pick and choose those passages that most ...more
Julien Rapp
Sep 15, 2014 Julien Rapp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was an enjoyable book in that it opened the pages of long lost ideas and discoveries made around the world and across a wider expanse of time than we are generally taught. However having an idea, or a myth expressing an idea, that is later proven through mathematics or what we now call the scientific method of replication and proofs, is not the same as understanding how things actually work, or being able to explain them. And not only mention them, but to use them to build new things that m ...more
John Bruni
I just couldn't get into this book, but I don't think it's Teresi's fault. I don't think I'm smart enough to understand a lot of the things he discusses. It didn't help that he started out with a chapter heavy on math. I'm pretty intelligent when it comes to some things, but math is definitely not one of them. Because of this, it was hard to continue with the book. I did stick with it, and the later chapters were more enjoyable. I love the idea of this book. As Americans, we think history goes b ...more
Jul 20, 2013 Isaac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read for anyone who likes popular science books. Scientific inquiry was never an exclusively western-european endeavor, though many of the quick historical surveys written make it seem that way. African, Indian, Asian, Central/South American cultures all feed into the thing that is called western science. Respect it!
Susan Slack
Okay I admit I couldn't make it all the way through. I do love the science but was lost most of time. That's okay, though. I like to "read up". In the parts I do know a little about, I found some pretty big errors. For instance, he puts the building of the pyramids at 45,000 BCE! Nope. Hope that was a typo. It is closer to 4,500 BCE. (Eats Shoots and Leaves all over again) Later he quotes one "authority" who estimates that Zoroastrianism started in the 4th Century BCE. Nope. It existed thousands ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
an interesting idea, if not exactly as earth shattering as Teresi intended. He ably points out several of the technologies and sciences that allowed European society to become a dominant force in the 17th-20th Centuries, and traces them back to their origins in Asia and Africa. If the book would have focused on this, and analyzed why the originators lacked to find the potential in many of these technologies, he would have had an excellent book with a strong thread and a cogent point.

Instead, he
Peter Mcloughlin
this is a pretty good primer on the science of ancient and medieval non-western cultures. It is not a Romantic anti-eurocentric tract. It has a balanced view of non-western science. For much of history non-western cultures have been ahead of the west scientifically but the book doesn't say that all western acheivements were stolen. the west certainly benefitted from developments in Islamic, chinese, Indian and in some cases african cultures especially in the middle ages and the renaissance and ...more
Tom Schulte
Sep 15, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it liked it
Shelves: science, history, china
this is a nice overview comparing western achievements in science and technology with non-Western accomplishments. it is organized by category (mathematics, physics, cosmology, medicine, technology and so on) and. within that cultures around the world. I felt the connections drawn between quantum mechanics and religious philosophies was a stretch given too much attention. the ending of chinese technology especially around gunpowder, metallurgy and navigation was very good and central to the them ...more
Josh Street
Mar 22, 2011 Josh Street rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This title was thoroughly disappointing. The author waffles between some form of bizarre Euro-guilt and outright distaste for actual science. While the historical notes are interesting, they are typically used to support tangential claims of denigrated contributions from other societies (while sometimes true, often his own research points out that the world-wide discovery of previous scientific findings occurred after western reinvention - it is unclear what the author wants - a renaming of theo ...more
Ell Eastwood
So this book is about the misconception that science was invented by the Ancient Greeks then reinvented during the Renaissance while all other culture invented the fire and then called it quits, waiting for Europeans to invent everything.

It's an interesting read, especielly since I feel that during the more than ten years that has passed since it being published, I don't think much has changed: I feel that the version were Europeans invented science is still prevalent, and that lots of people wi
Wanda Brenni
It has been said that most history books are written by privileged man and full of bias. To understand that our cumulative knowledge and wherewithal comes from such a diverse cultural base that goes back so far in time has a profound impact and makes this book well worth a read.
Conor Mullally
Mar 26, 2016 Conor Mullally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History can go jump in a lake then dry off while reading this book. It'll be a new day.
May 20, 2014 Syd rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although it was very interesting to read about non-European science and history the book was a bit boring to get trhough.
Jan 24, 2014 Esther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I'm just an iconoclast, but I love the mess Teresi makes of the myth that science and math are essentially the province of the ancient Greeks and their heirs, the WASPS.
Sep 26, 2013 Georgene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This has been my "read before sleeping" book for the last 6 weeks. All in all, I found it fascinating and thought provoking. I have been disturbed to discover that as much as I have liked this book, there are some factual errors in it, which leads me to wonder how many other errors I have missed. I wouldn't term this book "junk", but read it with the idea in mind that there are errors of fact within its pages.
this scholar records various sciences, math, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and technology, in various ancient cultures, like babylonian, egyptian, indian, chinese, meso-american, incan and african. the take home idea is that science was not invented in the west, but assembled there. ok read, but too long winded.
Jul 19, 2010 Kami rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the information in the book was fascinating, the writing was poor though; repetitive explanations abound and then other concepts and people are sparsely discussed. Here's a link to my more complete review.
Apr 21, 2015 Audrey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The mathematics section was fun and I have utilized it many times to make projects for the kids. The Cosmology and technology sections were completely painful and I thought I would never finish the last 30 pages.
Feb 03, 2016 Vera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
A history of past knowledge lost until found again in the modern era. This was interesting reading although some of it was slow in areas where my science background is getting rusty.
Noah Jensen
Dec 12, 2010 Noah Jensen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
still slow reading, but its getting more interesting. at the part aboutthe history of ZERO. quit interesting the take the mayans had was not verry scientificle.
Aug 19, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far so good. I'm always glad to see someone lay the smack on Eurocentric histories of natural science without getting nutty and/or boring.
Jan 17, 2008 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
A multicultural history of scientific and mathematical ideas that most people think of as European or modern; a good read.
great book--fun read for the history-of-science enthusiast. My husband found it in a give-away bin at work.
Thomas Lankenau
Sep 06, 2010 Thomas Lankenau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, packed with remarkable information. A treasure trove for the scientist.
Rj Price
Rj Price marked it as to-read
Jun 25, 2016
Meredith Stills
Meredith Stills rated it it was ok
Jun 24, 2016
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Dick Teresi is the coauthor of The God Particle and the author of Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science, both selected as New York Times Book Review Notable Books. He has been the editor in chief of Science Digest, Longevity, VQ, and Omni, and has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic, among other publications.
More about Dick Teresi...

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