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Science: A Four Thousand Year History

Popular Science

By: Patricia Fara(Author)

482 pages, 59 b/w photo and illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Feb 2010 | #182874 | ISBN-13: 9780199580279
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £14.99 $20/€17 approx
Hardback | Mar 2009 | #177886 | ISBN-13: 9780199226894
Out of Print Details

About this book

Science: A Four Thousand Year History rewrites science's past. Instead of focussing on difficult experiments and abstract theories, Patricia Fara shows how science has always belonged to the practical world of war, politics, and business. Rather than glorifying scientists as idealized heroes, she tells true stories about real people – men (and some women) who needed to earn their living, who made mistakes, and who trampled down their rivals in their quest for success.

Fara sweeps through the centuries, from ancient Babylon right up to the latest hi-tech experiments in genetics and particle physics, illuminating the financial interests, imperial ambitions, and publishing enterprises that have made science the powerful global phenomenon that it is today. She also ranges internationally, illustrating the importance of scientific projects based around the world, from China to the Islamic empire, as well as the more familiar tale of science in Europe, from Copernicus to Charles Darwin and beyond.

Above all, this four thousand year history challenges scientific supremacy, arguing controversially that science is successful not because it is always right – but because people have said that it is right.

Watch a short introduction below:


"Epic history of science"
– Jo Marchant, New Scientist

"Wide-ranging and provocative [...] Romps through history at a terrific rate."
The Economist

"An impressive and commendable effort to square the circle, to tell science's history, from the beginning."
– Martin D. Gordin, Science

"An engaging book [...] Fara is to be commended for stepping back – way back – to assess the history of science in its entirety"
– Robert J Malone, excutive director of the History of Science Society

Review from previous edition:

"Fara's book could not be more wide-ranging, beginning [with] the quest to take the story of science as far back as she story of science as far back as she possibly can, and ending bang up to date. The content is ambitious. jusiciously and fairly handled [...] The narrative moves forward in an engaging way, while the enthusiasm and opinions of the author are never far from the surface. It is a book to provoke thought and argument. An impressive achievement."
– Jim Bennett, BBC History Magazine



Part I: Origins
1: Sevens
2: Babylon
3: Heroes
4: Cosmos
5: Life
6: Matter
7: Technology

Part II: Interactions
8: Eurocentrism
9: China
10: Islam
11: Scholarship
12: Europe
13: Aristotle
14: Alchemy

Part III: Experiments
15: Exploration
16: Magic
17: Astronomy
18: Bodies
19: Machines
20: Instruments
21: Gravity

Part IV: Institutions
22: Societies
23: Systems
24: Careers
25: Industries
26: Revolutions
27: Rationality
28: Disciplines

Part V: Laws
29: Progress
30: Globalization
31: Objectivity
32: God
33: Evolution
34: Power
35: Time

Part VI: Invisibles
36: Life
37: Disease
38: Rays
39: Particles
40: Genes
41: Chemicals
42: Uncertainties

Part VII:
43: Warfare
44: Heredity
45: Cosmology
46: Information
47: Rivalry
48: Environment
49: Futures


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