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Preview — The Abacus and the Cross by Nancy Marie Brown
The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages
The personality here is a French peasant-monk, who had the good fortune to go to Spain in the mid-900s, where over some 3-4 years he immersed...more
The pontiff in question is Sylvester II, pope from 999 to 1003. From the fragmentary evidence about Gerbert of Aurillac, Sylvester’s name before his elevation, Brown resourcefully recounts his remarkable career and boldly asserts that the history of mathematics must be revised in light of Gerbert’s life. Born to a humble station around 950, Gerbert’s precocity impressed bishops and counts, and his friendship-forming personality, visible in surviving letters, showed up in places from Barcel...more
This history of the scientific activity of the pope and others around the year 1000 addresses the myth that science died during the middle ages - that nothing happened between the ancient Greeks and the Renaissance. I've read other books that present the same concept, but this book was the first I've read that suggests that the politics of the Renaissance era directly led to the myth. The author writes that Petrarch, historian writing in the 1400s, apparently coined the term...more
"Dark Ages" from the dustbin of history. While academicians have long asserted that there was little about the early middle ages that was really "dark" popular culture and writings generally have ignored that. What a wicked good job the writers of the Renaissance did in labelling the somewhat recent past (ok, in the big picture it was recent!) as dismal, unlearned, and dark.
The convergence of science and religion, so absent i...more
The book is very well written and really brought Gerbert to life.
I found his early life to be far more interesting than his later years, when he became embroiled in court politics. I just didn't find all the court intrigue that captivating; it seemed like a whole lot of he-said-she-said involving this Emp...more
Great, in-depth descriptions of how books, astrolabes, abacuses, etc. were made and used.
I was not aware of the Flat Earth Error which started in the 1800s to elevate Columbus' status while denigrating the churchmen of the "dark" age. Fascinating.