832 pages, 66 b/w illustrations
Once upon a time 'The Scientific Revolution of the 17th century' was an innovative concept that inspired a stimulating narrative of how modern science came into the world. Half a century later, what we now know as 'the master narrative' serves rather as a strait-jacket – so often events and contexts just fail to fit in. No attempt has been made so far to replace the master narrative. H. Floris Cohen now comes up with precisely such a replacement. Key to his path-breaking analysis-cum-narrative is a vision of the Scientific Revolution as made up of six distinct yet narrowly interconnected, revolutionary transformations, each of some twenty-five to thirty years' duration. This vision enables him to explain how modern science could come about in Europe rather than in Greece, China, or the Islamic world. It also enables him to explain how half-way into the 17th century a vast crisis of legitimacy could arise and, in the end, be overcome.
Building forth on his earlier The Scientific Revolution. A Historiographical Inquiry (1994), his new book takes the latest researches duly into account, while connecting these in highly innovative ways. It is meant throughout as a constructive effort to break up all-too-deeply frozen patterns of thinking about the history of science.
"In this provocative, comparative treatment of a classic moment in the history of science Floris Cohen brilliantly challenges current narratives."
– Robert S. Westman, University of California, San Diego
"This supremely important book will become indispensable reading for anyone interested in how the modern world became the way it is. By comprehensively explaining the rise of science, and its why, where and when, Floris Cohen has solved, dazzlingly, one of the most pressing problems in world history."
– John Henry, University of Edinburgh
Table of contents - 8
Preface - 14
Prologue - 16
Part I. Nature-Knowledge in Traditional Society - 42
I. Greek foundations, Chinese contrasts - 44
II. Greek nature-knowledge transplanted: the islamic world - 94
III. Greek nature-knowledge transplanted in part: medieval Europe - 118
IV. Greek nature-knowledge transplanted, and more: renaissance Europe - 140
Part II. Three revolutionary transformations - 198
V. The first transformation: realist-mathematical science - 200
VI. The second transformation: a kinetic-corpuscularian philosophy of nature - 262
VII. The third transformation: to find facts through experiment - 286
VIII. Concurrence explained - 312
IX. Prospects around 1640 - 322
Part III. Dynamics of the Revolution - 330
X. Achievements and limitations of realist-mathematical science - 332
XI. Achievements and limitations of kinetic corpuscularianism - 414
XII. Legitimacy in the balance - 444
XIII. Achievements and limitations of fact-finding experimentalism - 486
XIV. Nature-knowledge decompartmentalized - 550
XV. The fourth transformation: corpuscular motion geometrized - 562
XVI. The fifth transformation: the baconian brew - 590
XVII. Legitimacy of a new kind - 606
XVIII. Nature-knowledge by 1684: the achievement so far - 640
XIX. The sixth transformation: the newtonian synthesis - 678
Epilogue - 760
Notes on literature used - 781
Endnotes - 784
Name index - 808
Subject index - 820
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H. Floris Cohen is professor of comparative history of science at Utrecht University.