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Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750
This text explores ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle ages through to the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark and celestial apparitions adorned romances and puzzled philosophers. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy and li...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published September 4th 2001 by Zone Books (NY)
(first published May 22nd 1998)
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Fascinating book - it seems everything Lorraine Daston's touches is brilliant. This was my entrée to early-modern science studies, and a compelling and engaging introduction at that. Though I may bicker with some of Park and Daston's arguments - I think they overstate the centrality of the 17th century to the development of modernity - one forgives them the occasional overstretching, and towards the back end of the book, repetitiveness, because as a whole the work is so brillaint.
This is a pretty amazing book - one of my all-time favorites. It's a history of how a sense of wonder (religious, supernatural, whatever) drove scientific investigation in pre-Modern Europe. It's science writing and writing about the history of science, but it's also about the way culture is constructed in the shadow of irrational impulses. Plus it's beautifully written and Lorraine Daston is a badass academic who can actually make a non-academic reader feel connected to what she's writing.
Interested in freaks and wonders, but also want to know how they got that way in the first place? Think about how huge the world was, when ostrich eggs and alligators inspired maps that contained dragon-like fish between continents. Read this before you even pick up a book on circuses or so-called hermaphrodites.
It was a pleasure just to leaf through this nicely constructed book. The illustrations alone were entertaining. The argument on the changing meanings attached to wonder, especially in changing cultural contexts, was lucid and informative.
Lorraine Daston (born June 9, 1951, East Lansing, Michigan) is an American historian of science. Executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, and visiting professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, she is considered an authority on Early Modern European scientific and intellectual history. In 1993, she was named a f...moreMore about Lorraine Daston...