Tag Archives: James Hannam

“How the Medieval World laid the Foundations of Modern Science”

In my youth it was respectable to argue that science was built on foundations partly laid in the Middle Ages. Nowadays this view is derisory and disreputable. I’ve just bought God’s Philosophers by James Hannam. The subtitle is “How the Medieval World laid the Foundations of Modern Science”.

The Introduction begins:

The most famous remark made by Sir Isaac Newton (1642– 1727) was: ‘If I have seen a little further then it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Most people assume that he meant his scientific achievements were built on the discoveries of his predecessors. In the same letter, he alludes to René Descartes (1596–1650), the French philosopher and mathematician, so presumably he was one of Newton’s giants. Few people realise, however, that Newton’s aphorism was first coined in the twelfth century by the theologian Bernard of Chartres (who died around 1130). Even fewer are aware that Newton’s science also has its roots embedded firmly in the Middle Ages. This book will show just how much of the science and technology that we now take for granted has medieval origins.

I hope the book lives up to its promise!

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