The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science by Seb Falk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Light Ages. As opposed to the Dark Ages. Indeed.
If I had to compare this to other History of Science nonfiction books, I'd have to rate this rather high. Of course, it debunks the basic idea that there was barely any science in the middle ages, that most people were ignorant savages, etc, but the truth is very different. (I've read a great number of books that say pretty much the same thing.) But the accepted wisdom is different, of course, and should be looked at with a good deal of skepticism.
No, 50% literacy rate, at least for common word usage, isn't that high for NOW, but it's not insignificant. Learning a ton of memory techniques, working extra hard to copy books by hand, pushing the bubble of science wider against all odds, and spreading the love of learning across the western world isn't exactly nothing. And add to that the fact that the Renaissance came from these times, and so did Oxford and so many other huge educational centers, and we have to ask ourselves WHY we assume that these were the Dark Ages. Is it just because there wasn't a printing press?
Knowledge and learning have always been around. This book brings up some of the most delightful aspects that were progressed during this time. My favorites always revolve around the stars, but between proto-calculus tables, charting, medical analysis, alchemy, and of course the big names like Ptolomy, we need to honor those who came before us.
This book does a very nice job of highlighting a few great minds of the day and draws direct lines to our modern day. A must-read for those who love the history of science, especially the popular version.
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