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Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A. D. 1450

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  465 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
When it was first published in 1992, The Beginnings of Western Science was lauded as the first successful attempt ever to present a unified account of both ancient and medieval science in a single volume. Chronicling the development of scientific ideas, practices, and institutions from pre-Socratic Greek philosophy to late-Medieval scholasticism, David C. Lindberg surveyed ...more
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Published February 15th 2010 by University of Chicago Press (first published July 1st 1992)
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Daniel Wright
Maybe I'm just a geek (OK, I am just a geek, and a history-of-science geek at that) but this was one of the most unbelievably interesting books I have ever read.
Peter Mcloughlin
People in the sciences are often looking for the latest thing so the history of science being an endeavor which looks backward has less appeal to science enthusiasts and it may be too nerdy for history lovers. So it is kind of an orphan field. I myself love intellectual orphans. History of science is one of my favorite areas to read. When approaching the ancient and medieval scholars you have to have some understanding that they were not benighted fools barking up the wrong trees. They were just ...more
"If we hope to understand what it means to inhabit the world of modern science, we cannot afford to be ignorant of the itinerary that brought us to it."

David Lindberg is right in this claim, and he does a very good job of combatting that ignorance. As ambitious as it is well written, this book is an excellent overview of the Western scientific tradition in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Lindberg organizes his exploration very well, and he gives incredible insight into the context in which this s
Ahmad Ardy
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly written, and ends with a bang. But the writings in between the different chapter doesnt add up to a bigger whole. Felt more of like a series of essays. Probably the author intended it for readers who have somewhat an intermediate-level of understanding on the topic. Content-wise: 5 stars (a tenous one). Writing-wise: 3 or 4 stars.
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this both to knock it out in advance for a History of Science class and because of an intellectual interest in Aristotelianism and Aquinas; I can't recommend it enough to anyone whose knowledge of the Middle Ages consists of the ahistorical smears developed first by 16th century Protestants against their Catholic forbearers, then by Enlightenment secularists eager to scoff at the supposedly superstitious and hidebound past. The chapters on Greek philosophy are fantastic, presenting Platon ...more
Mark Bowles
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In recent years, few synthetic and interpretative histories of science have been written which overview science from antiquity to the Middle Ages. David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science, attempts to synthesize the philosophical, religious, and institutional aspects of this period, focusing on themes of transmission and continuity and profiting from research that was unavailable to past scholars of this genre. Lindberg's purpose was to describe the ancient and medieval scientific tr ...more
Nicholas Wood
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The major theme of this book is that we cannot judge the accomplishments of the past through a modern lens. Every age in history had its own sets of problems and its own tools for trying to solve them. As Lindberg says, "we must forgive medieval scholars for being medieval and cease to castigate them for not being modern. If we are lucky, future generations will do us a similar favor." When we realize this, we are able to appreciate how the advancements of natural philosophy (i.e. science) from ...more
Curby Graham
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of the history of Western Science. The author is evenhanded and avoids any of the anti-religious nonsense regarding the Medieval era. The only disagreement I found was in one aside where he mentions the death of Hyapatia was due to Christians attacking her for her pagan beliefs. Other than that is is a valuable work and worth getting for anyone interested in the history of science.
After reading the entertainingly written God's Philosophers, this book proved to be way more boring. It is comprehensive, well-documented, but just one of those academic books that mostly aim to cover a certain topic and not to argue a certain idea. For example, you have whole paragraphs which consist almost only of names, works and years. It is rather like a textbook, very useful for beginners who plan to specialize in the field, but not terribly captivating for general readers. You're likely t ...more
So Hakim
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Catch-all tome about development of science in the West: from Egypt & Mesopotamia, to Greek & Roman, then Islamic & Medieval, up to just before Renaissance. There is persistent myth that "real" science only started in 17th century. Well, it couldn't be further from truth.

In this book David Lindberg shows that science is truly a cumulative process. Every generation has its own luminaries, who in turn formed the foundation for the next. As humanity progressed our worldview also morphed
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Science did not begin with Newton, Galileo or even Copernicus. This is the essential survey of those who worked to understand the natural world in the 2000 years before them.
Egypt Scholars Scholars
للكاتب ديفد ليندبيرج المتخصص في دراسة تاريخ العلوم و البروفيسور في جامعة ويسكانسون - ماديسون الأمريكية.

يعد هذا الكتاب من أهم و أنضج و أشمل المحاولات العلمية الجادة لتتبع و حصر أصول العلوم المختلفة، و رواية قصص نشأتها، و رصد مراحل تطورها عبر الزمن.

يتضمن الكتاب مسحاً لفترة طويلة من الزمن تبدأ من مرحلة ما قبل ظهور سقراط و شيوع الفلسفة الإغريقية، و تمتد وصولاً إلى مدارس العلوم المختلفة التي شاعت في القرون المتأخرة من العصور الوسطى. و قد تضمنت المباحث التي تعرض لها الكتاب موضوعات العلوم الكونية و ال
Jun 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science
Mr. Lindberg sets out to trace the development of Western scientific thought through the ages. He takes a position of continuity, saying that each age built upon the last in its own way (apparently some people argue for discontinuity). He successfully shows that scientific thought was dispersed widely, built upon itself, and contributed to modern scientific thought.

The historical portion of this book is quite interesting. He starts with ancient Greek science, proceeds through Roman and Islamic
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A competent and even lively introduction to scientific thought from prehistory to 1450. The first half covers the remarkable advances made in scientific thinking in antiquity, paying special attention to ancient Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, and Hellenistic natural philosophy. The second half is concerned with the way this thought was preserved, transmitted, transformed (and corrupted!) throughout the middle ages. Lindberg takes pains to emphasize the inappropriateness of dismissing ancient or med ...more
Anthony Sebastian
The Beginnings of Western Science The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450 by David C. Lindberg

David C. Lindberg

Currently (08-May-2011) reading. I like this excerpt from Chapter 1:

"This brief foray into lexicography ought to remind us that many words, especially the most interesting ones, have multiple meanings that shift with the contexts of usage or the practices of specific linguistic communities. Every meaning of the term "science" discussed above is a convention accepted by a sizable group of people, who are unlikely to relinquish their favored usage without a fight. From which it f
Michael Scott
++++ excellent review of early science, and why Western science is different
+++ very good start
+++ strong narrative, well read
++ interesting theories about the spread of science after the Spanish conquest by Moors (or, if you prefer, the inaptly named Dark Ages)
+ interesting points about modern science
-- I missed somehow the transition between monasteries and universities. Is it that the author does not actually have a good theory for this transition? (Or, likely, it's me.)
- lingers towards
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great overview of the history of science, especially during the middle ages. I would have liked to read a little more about the contributions of Islam though(how it preserved/transformed classical Greek contributions). Also, I would have liked to read about the transition from the middle ages to the early Renaissance. The book ends with the question of continuity, but doesn't really go into how the transition/revolution happened.
Ronald Wise
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A chronicle of the development of medieval scientific thought from Greek times, starting with a brief background visit to the earliest recorded mathematical and scientific efforts in Mesopotamia and Egypt. It helped to solidify my appreciation for the number of ideas that evolved from Ancient Greece, through the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissannce.
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: priority
A very well-written, resourceful introductory book for students of history of science. Lindenberg's concise and succinct descriptions of history of science well inform you about the traditions in science from ancient times to the early modern period. I've learned a lot from this book, and this book gave me incentive to pursue and learn more about the history of science in medieval period.
Jake Cooper
First half: Greek learning celebrated, but little info on the intellectual stagnation (?) in 300-900AD.
Second half: Poorly organized but informative account of late medieval learning (1000-1400 ish).
Riley Drake
Lindberg is a great writer and adept at presenting complex histories in simple frameworks. However, he has an incredible appreciation for and pays tribute to Greek culture, glossing over the less tasteful (though entirely essential) elements of Greek legacy.
The best, most comprehensive introduction to the history of science in the ancient and medieval West. Aimed at undergraduates and non-specialists, with careful explanations of ideas and the social contexts in which they evolved.
I read selections from this book. It is a very readable account of science from the Greeks through the Middle Ages.
so so educational, I love this book and Lindberg
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
religion made me see another part of life as are the scientific discoveries which give me another view
Andrew Long
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive and erudite work of scholarship.
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not only an interesting book - it is a must-read for any writer who is building a pre-modern world. Lindberg puts himself into the context and mind-set of the time periods.
Alexandre Guay
Aug 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un très bon manuel équilibré. J'aurais aimé avoir plus de détails sur l'évolution de la technologie cependant.
Bill Bruno
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A useful book. There was certainly more to the progress of science in the Middle Ages than a mindless regurgitation of classical era writings received via the Arabs.
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David C. Lindberg was an American historian of science. His main focus was in the history of medieval and early modern science, especially physical science and the relationship between religion and science. Lindberg was the author or editor of many books and received numerous grants and awards. He also served as President of the History of Science Society and, in 1999, was recipient of its highest ...more
More about David C. Lindberg...
“If there was anything obviously heroic about medieval surgery, it was the patient.” 3 likes
“If we wish to do justice to the historical enterprise, we must take past for what it was. And that means that we must resist the temptation to scour the past for examples or precursors of modern science. We must respect the way earlier generations approached nature, acknowledging that although it may differ from the modern way, it is nonetheless of interest because it is part of our intellectual ancestry.” 3 likes
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