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Les Découvreurs (Knowledge Trilogy #1)

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  8,558 ratings  ·  208 reviews
A great book by one of our greatest historians, The Discoverers is a sweeping volume of majestic interpretation. To call it a history of science is an understatement. This is the story of how humankind has come to know the world, however incompletely ("the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility"--Einstein). Daniel J. Boorstin 1st describes the liberating con ...more
Published 2002 by Robert Laffont (Paris) (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jennifer (aka EM)
Three-and-a-half stars for the book itself, which presents the history of human thought in chapters that detail the world's greatest discoveries, scientists and thinkers from astronomy to geography to psychology to religion and dozens of other points in between.

I round my review up to four for the fact that my copy is dog-eared and falling apart because it was my late father's favourite book. He was an armchair traveller and pursuer of knowledge who was curtailed only by his life's circumstance
Charles Moody
If you were going on a yearlong cruise and could take only one book, this might be my recommendation. I cannot image where else you could find, in a single volume, such a wealth of history organized so lucidly and written so engagingly. The title might suggest that it is the story of Columbus, Magellan, etc., and in part it is, but it is far more. It describes the step-by-step advances in human knowledge in many areas, as societies began to measure time, became determined to explore and map the ...more
Todd Nemet
It took me about six weeks to read this book because I wanted to take my time with it.

The Discoverers is a history of our attempt to understand the world and our place in it. This story of science and exploration is divided into these four books:

1. Time - how attempts to measure hours and years led to examination of the sky and development of increasingly complex machines
2. The Earth And The Seas - exploration of the globe over land and sea; the discovery of New World
3. Nature - Copernican sy
One of my all-time favorite books. I bought it as an ‘airport’ book for a long flight in about 1985 and could not put it down. My old paper back , dog eared and extensively annotated finally fell apart earlier this year so I bought a second hand hard cover and went on annotating. I have read it three times from cover to cover and several more times in bits and pieces.
Boorstin documents in wonderful conversational and personal prose the historical process of discovery of the heavens , earth and
M.G. Bianco
Classical Conversations, for whom I tutor, uses this text for its 12th grade (Challenge IV program). There are two things I really like about this book.

1. It tells the history of scientists and discoverers in the form of a story. It draws you into the story and develops the same spirit of inquiry the discoverers themselves would have experienced as they set out to discover.

2. It is biased. I am so weary of history books that pretend to be unbiased when they aren't. This books is unabashedly bias
I enjoyed hearing about human ingenuity over the ages.
I particularly liked hearing about the mapping of the seas.
Points on a map, incrementally added over time, arrived at by
exceptional adventure/vision/luck/greed. Another interesting
theme was the transformation of old ideas to new; the
tenacity of tradition. The often mundane and sometimes
brutality of dogma. How a person forges a new path with
insight and research and encourages those two great tasks; yet,
his followers deify the thinker, create
Sep 16, 2007 Eric rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want perspective.
Shelves: history
I had no idea this Boorstin guy was well known when I stole the beat up old book from my family's bookshelf for my own perusal. I was pleasantly surprised the entire time, amazed that what I thought was a run of the mill shelf filler would be so consistently interesting an engaging. It's a neat book, one worth reading - it's been a while now and I don't remember most of what is in there, but I can tell you that I'll never think of clocks the same way again.

This is definitely a book to review while one is reading it. Boorstin has a sense of history as an unfolding story. The book is divided into many small sections, each having its own arc of significance with a beginning, middle and end. I read it almost every morning over breakfast. Never has a history text been so fascinating to me.

July 30, 2010: Finished! After a few pages every morning for about a year. This was indeed an adventure in reading. The final discoverers discussed by Boorstin, Farad
Stuart Lutzenhiser
The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin, published in 1985, is a solid, thoroughly researched and well documented series of 82 essays on the history of human discovery. Some of these discoveries are physical, such as the New World or the trade route around Africa. Some of the discoveries are scientific such as the Calculus, the atom, or Evolution. For me, the book has two aspects that set it well above similar works on scientific history. That is, an exploration of how we discovered things that one m ...more
Good LORD it took me a long time to finish this book. Not because of the writing - Boorstin's good at relating history though clear, lively anecdotes. And it's long, but the delay was mostly because of the *size* - I have the 'deluxe illustrated edition' which is two hardback volumes filled with beautiful illustrations. I recommend this edition for the fantastic visual context it gives for the huge sweeps of history Boorstin surveys. I do not recommend this edition for its size & bulk, which ...more
I'm always interested and also usually a little perplexed by some of the comments given to a book such as this one. 'It was heavy.' 'Very dense and very long.' or 'I stuck with it and am glad I finally finished it.'

Ok, that's the way some folks are, and that's fine, but in my view this just isn't the start-at-page-one-and-stick-with-it-to-page-716 kind of book. It's a book to keep handy on a shelf and dip into whenever and for whatever reason. It doesn't have a beginning, middle and end, just a
While Boorstin identifies the aspects of human culture and interaction that define us over time - our self-created myths - with extraordinary insight and impressive documentation (hey, with the Library of Congress at your feet, research is the easy part) he really misses the point on this one.

In the opening paragraphs of the very first chapter, Boorstin celebrates the destruction of the moon as time-teller, essentially invalidating the entire process of human thought and universe understanding u
I re-read this after a hiatus of many years. This is Boorstin's exploration of "discoverers" - those who have pushed back the boundaries of the world in time or space (those who formulated the calendar, or mapped the world, discovered new trade routes, discovered the principles of mathematics or physics or biology, etc). A truly encylcopedic view of the history of discovery - well worth reading.
Facinating view of the key people whose discoveries made a significant change in the history and culture of the world. My only complaint is that it doesn't have the footnotes most works of history have, but it is well written and deserves to be read by those who appreciate the heroics of those who dare to explore beyond the conventional borders of the culture in which they live.
A monumental achievement. Well worth the reading. It wasn't as compellingly written as I might have liked. It took me a good while to get through it. But it's a great reference work.
Todd Martin
The Discoverers is a well-researched and well-written history of … wait for it … DISCOVERY! These include technological discoveries such as the timepiece, telescope, microscope and printing press, geographical discoveries such as Greenland and the Americas, and scientific discoveries such as astronomy, physiology, medicine, anthropology and sociology. The book is sweeping in its scope as well as its length (the progress bar on my Kindle crawled forward at such an interminable pace I wasn’t sure ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 11, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history of science fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Neither deep nor systematic, this popular history of human discovery is still a fun, albeit anecdotal, read.
Chelsea Ursaner
This book was a MASSIVE undertaking by Boorstin and apparently is part of a trilogy. On the whole, I really enjoyed it. As others have noted, it is a good historical overview starting from the discovery of the ~365 day solar year by the Egyptians and up to the atom. I was drawn to it because I love biographies and this was sort of a compilation. My favorite discoverer was probably Keynes. I may be be experiencing a bit of a recency bias since he was at the end of the book but he was such a well- ...more
Incredible breadth of scholarship in this work, and the first half I would label among the most uniquely entertaining works of history I have come across in quite some time. Like Mark Kurlansky, Boorstin approaches history through several unique lenses, always tied together by mankind's drive to discovery and expansion, such as the impact of spectacles on productivity, the impact of the development of tools of navigation and astronomy, and the currents of philosophical and religious thought that ...more
Holly Lindquist
This is an engaging and beautifully well-written history of science. Basically, imagine some of the most fascinating essays and magazine articles on science you've ever read, stick 'em in a 700 page book, and you have The Discoverers.

For those who actually want details on just how much this book covers, here is the shortest summary I could come up with:
- Humankind's first attempts at astronomy and time-keeping. (The history of clocks was probably my favorite part of the entire book, though the c
Aaron Arnold
The Discoverers is a genial, readable, welcome overview of some of the major scientific discoveries in human history, linked together by theme, and a good candidate for "best book that should have been one of my textbooks in high school but inexplicably wasn't". Boorstin is apparently a generally strong historian, having written several other acclaimed works like the 1974 History Pulitzer winner The Americans, and if that one was anything like this it should be a great read. The Discoverers take ...more
Max Nova
One of the most ambitious books I have ever read. Boorstin sets off to cover the interplay between society and technological development from the most primitive timekeeping devices up to the wave-particle theory. And he succeeds admirably. This book is required reading for anyone trying to understand how the world works.

Some of the best quotes from the book:

"The most promising words ever written on the maps of human knowledge are terra incognita—unknown territory"

"THE great obstacle to discoveri
I feel conflicted from having read a book in which quality deserves five stars, but enjoyment deserves 3. I understand its merit; the book is very well written and even better researched. But I grew bored of the relentless onslaught of new facts, new characters, and new situations with only a historical thread tying them all together (Boorstin opts for "a" instead of "an" when prefacing "historical" which I found odd but preserve here). Boorstin demands a rudimentary historical knowledge which, ...more
This book was nothing like what I expected when I selected it from a stack to read quite some time ago. I figured it would be a bunch of mini-biographies of the people who made important discoveries in the history of the world. It kind of is that. But actually it is what the subtitle states -- a history of man's search to know his world and himself.

The book is divided into 4 Books: Time, The Earth and The Seas, Nature, and Society. Each book is then subdivided again into specific aspects of know
Herb Hastings
I just finished rereading this after a 30 year break. It is a treasure trove of history. The author gives us the stories behind great advances in human knowledge, from the ancient to the modern times. It is well written and obviously written by a scholar in love with his subject.

This book was written well before the "New Atheists Writers" appeared on the scene and Boorstein does not give any personal view of religious doctrine. The stories he recounts do touch on religion, mainly as a hindrance
Daniel Boorstin has taken full advantage of his access to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute to write this incredible book. I read it many years ago, but still remember the awe of discovering people who dared to investigate the unknown. One of my favorite questions is "Why did the Chinese not discover Europe?" I had never thought about it so even the question, much less the answer, blew my mind. Put this on you must read list now!
A friend of mine told me he would only join Goodreads if I read a bunch of this book. So I did. I'm always up for a good challenge. But phew! That was some slow reading! The chapters I chose to read were: 1, 6, 10, 11, 13, 27, 65, 66, 70, and 78.

I'm personally not opposed to reading non-fiction. In fact I find that I often enjoy it. And while I found the concept of this book to be interesting I found its presentation to be a bit dry. What could've been said in 2-3 pages was drawn out over 9-10 p
Boorstin's monumental work is like some sort of Narnian wardrobe--far larger on the inside than you'd believe by looking at the book itself. "The Discoverers" is a long series of fairly short chapters, each of which tells the story of one aspect of man's gaining knowledge about his world. Boorstin includes segments covering things like the discovery of time and timepieces, the exploration of the world, and numerous scientific discoveries throughout history. The format of the book is quite effect ...more
This was a nice hodge-podge of interesting bits of science; however, lacking a central them, after a while it became almost background noise. For example, the progress of clock-making in arriving at a solution for shipboard navigation has been treated much more effectively elsewhere - I lost my motivation to be truly amazed.
This is the book that turned me on to nonfiction. My original copy is missing the front cover because I've read it so many times that it has fallen off. I cried when Daniel Boorstin died, and if that isn't enough of a recommendation, I don't know what is.

That said, if you'd like to know more about the book: it's a story composed of the stories of those who have discovered everything from ideas to places. The first section in particular is a description of the discovery of the modern idea of tim
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Daniel Joseph Boorstin was a historian, professor, attorney, and writer. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress from 1975 until 1987.

He graduated from Tulsa's Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 15. He graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD at Yale University. He was a lawyer
More about Daniel J. Boorstin...

Other Books in the Series

Knowledge Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination
  • The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World

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