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Les Découvreurs (Knowledge Trilogy #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  9,610 Ratings  ·  268 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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Charles Moody
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you were going on a yearlong cruise and could take only one book, this might be my recommendation. I cannot imagine 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 th ...more
Todd N
Jun 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
This theme based history of how the modern world came to be is so much more engaging than the typical geopolitical event based history. Rather than learning about battles, kings and politicians we learn how ideas pursued by innovators shaped our culture. Boorstin shows us how these creative thinkers were helped or more often held back by political, religious and cultural forces and in turn how their ideas changed these forces. This wide ranging book begins with man’s first discovery, time, and f ...more
Miloš Kostić
Potrajalo je, ali je bilo vredno truda.
Sjajna knjiga, napisana izuzetnim, vrlo čitljivim, čak književnim stilom. Toliko pitko da može da se čita satima bez zamaranja, što je nekarakteristično za stručne knjige. A opet, obilje informacija nameće želju da se iz nje uči kao iz udžbenika.
Ovo Geopoetikino izdanje je štampano veoma sitnim slovima. A debela je! Izgubih oči.
Istorija nauke, više je istorija nego nauka. Bavi se uglavnom, ako ne i isključivo, onim otkrićima koja su promenila ljudsko shvata
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Bianco
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sean Mcmillin
I'll write a more detailed review latter but this was amaze balls!
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
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Peter Mcloughlin
The book is a history of exploration both geographic and intellectual. It starts with early civilization and progresses through the Greeks and Romans and the Medieval world and the age of exploration. It spends time on the scientific revolution of Copernicus through Newton, it goes into Darwin and Lyell. It covers the intellectuals and explorers that any educated person in the mid to late 20th century was expected to be familiar with. Strangely it didn't have very much material on 20th century d ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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.
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the audiobook of this one, which means that I need to go back and dive in deeper, but on the surface, the book was aesthetically beautiful and the conclusions pushed me to think a lot about progress, achievement, multiculturalism and the pursuit of knowledge. I particularly loved the descriptions of Portugal during the Age of Discovery, the short history of medicine and the long meditations on the role of Christianity and Western Culture on scientific discovery. It's also interesti ...more
An adventure story of our gradual awakening to the world through clocks, telescopes, microscopes, maps, and the printing press. There is immense scholarship that mines the lives of thinkers, scholars, rulers, poets, inventors, scientists, and artists.

Boorstin's book is a tour de force, pulling together sources from multiple sources and cultures to give us a mirror of our intellectual, scientific evolution. The conflict between traditional sources of authority and liberating technologies provides
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
Chelsea Ursaner
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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
Jaysen Huculak
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing journey through discovery. I found this book very challenging to read. My pace was about 1/3rd what my normal reading rate was. Although had to restart many times I kept returning to and attempting to read. This year I finally made it through and am happy for it. The book is full of fascinating stories of people that changed the world or the perception of it. It took me more than 10 years to finally read cover to cover and I'm already considering reading it again. But in a few years.. ...more
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.
Feb 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 17, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
hmmm. do I still own this.....
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
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
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I feel divided on this book. I really enjoyed large chunks of it, and really appreciate the depth of knowledge and information found here. I also feel the overall tone and context in which it is presented is narrowly eurocentric and limiting. It looks at the history of the world through the lens of white european men and their accomplishments. It related almost everything to them. It sees colonialism as progress, slavery and subjugation, although evils, as ways toward new discoveries. Women are ...more
The book is well written, and I appreciate the optimistic outlook the author paints of humanity and human endeavors. The individual "stories" are well-put-together and interesting. However, the book focuses too much on the data at the expense of theory and interpretation, and such lack of integration can make a seven-hundred-page history tract feel fragmented. Perhaps this book would best be read in chunks. You wouldn't "lose your place" in any theoretical framework the author is building, and y ...more
Todd Stockslager
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Review title: What we know about the world we created

Boorstin was the Librarian of Congress when he wrote the pair of books that were huge bestsellers, sat on many family bookshelves, and were eventually sold or given away so are widely available on the used book market. The Discoverers was followed by The Creators which documented the history of what we created (religion, art, drama, literature) about the world we know. I found The Creators more satisfying because surprisingly it is easier to d
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read for anyone interested in Western history. It is perfectly fine for people with little or no knowledge of western history...Boorstin makes no assumptions of level of knowledge. He describes the basics of history, but in the context of Western cultures and people creating brand new accomplishments.
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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
“Now, these parts of the earth [Europe, Africa, Asia] have been more extensively explored and a fourth part has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci (as will be described in what follows). Inasmuch as both Europe and Asia received their names from women, I see no reason why any one should justly object to calling this part Amerige [from Greek “ge” meaning “land of”], i.e., the land of Amerigo, or America, after Amerigo, its discoverer, a man of great ability.” 1 likes
“Climaxing a movement for calendar reform which had been developing for at least a century, in 1582 Pope Gregory ordained that October 4 was to be followed by October 15.” 0 likes
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