Hot Best Seller

The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

Availability: Ready to download

An extraordinary history of humanity's changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile distinction between 'sciences' and 'humanities' to bring to life the whole history of cosmology from the Babylonians to Newton. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world- An extraordinary history of humanity's changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile distinction between 'sciences' and 'humanities' to bring to life the whole history of cosmology from the Babylonians to Newton. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world-view replaced the medieval world-view in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. He also provides vivid and judicious pen-portraits of a string of great scientists and makes clear the role that political bias and unconscious prejudice played in their creativity.


Compare

An extraordinary history of humanity's changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile distinction between 'sciences' and 'humanities' to bring to life the whole history of cosmology from the Babylonians to Newton. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world- An extraordinary history of humanity's changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile distinction between 'sciences' and 'humanities' to bring to life the whole history of cosmology from the Babylonians to Newton. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world-view replaced the medieval world-view in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. He also provides vivid and judicious pen-portraits of a string of great scientists and makes clear the role that political bias and unconscious prejudice played in their creativity.

30 review for The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Koestler's book presents a rather good history of cosmology from ancient times until the late 17th century. There are four main sections, respectively devoted to the classical world-view (i.e. before the 15th century), Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, and in each one I was surprised to see just how ignorant I was. In the first section, I had not appreciated to what extent scientific progress can go backwards as well as forwards. Koestler describes the Pythagorean school - like Penrose, a modern d Koestler's book presents a rather good history of cosmology from ancient times until the late 17th century. There are four main sections, respectively devoted to the classical world-view (i.e. before the 15th century), Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, and in each one I was surprised to see just how ignorant I was. In the first section, I had not appreciated to what extent scientific progress can go backwards as well as forwards. Koestler describes the Pythagorean school - like Penrose, a modern disciple, he considers Pythagoras one of the most important figures in all world history - and shows how they built up a strikingly modern version of astronomy between the 6th and 3rd centuries B.C. Among other triumphs, they correctly deduced that the Earth was round and rotates, and were able to obtain good estimates for its radius, the distance to the Moon, and even the distance to the Sun. Aristarchus, the last major figure in this line of scientists, developed a plausible heliocentric theory and was greatly respected for centuries after his death. But then Plato and Aristotle severed the link between theory and observation and reverted to a system which placed the Earth back in the middle of the universe, with everything else rotating around it on an increasingly complex system of crystal spheres; this new geocentric theory received its final incarnation in the work of Ptolemy, in the second century A.D. After the fall of Roman civilization, even this was lost, and by the sixth century A.D. the world was flat again. It was interesting to see how it took several hundred more years to rediscover Ptolemaic astronomy, which was then treated (almost literally) as Gospel truth. Koestler makes fun of the medieval mind-set, but I wondered what would happen if our own civilization collapsed and science reverted to a much more primitive stage. Someone who found a miraculously preserved book on General Relativity and mananaged to figure out what it meant probably wouldn't be too critical. The detailed account of Copernicus was also illuminating, though here, again, I thought Koestler was a little unfair. He paints Copernicus as a timid nerd who was unable to free himself from the Ptolemaic model and strike out in a genuinely new direction, removing the cycles and epicycles altogether. Well, Copernicus could perhaps have achieved more: but I liked the way he patiently worked within the system and showed that, even in its own terms, it wasn't very good. It isn't as well-known as it should be that the Copernican universe used the same machinery as the Ptolemaic one - intricate arrangements of revolving spheres - but Copernicus's argument was that the arrangement of spheres was simpler if you let the Earth rotate and go round the Sun. It took a while for people to notice Copernicus's work, but when they did the effect was dramatic. The longest section in the book is about Kepler, clearly Koestler's favorite. I had not appreciated quite how fundamental Kepler's contribution to science was: Koestler argues that he was the first person to formulate a modern scientific law, based on detailed observations and expressed in fully quantitative terms as a mathematical formula, and that he prepared the way for Newton. The process by which Kepler got there is again described in great detail, and I was particularly impressed with Kepler's first attempt to explain the orbit of Mars. His theory was quite good; it agreed with the observations to within 8 minutes of arc, which would have satisfied most people. But Kepler felt he could do better, junked the solution, and spent several more years messing with the data until he derived his First and Second Laws. The accounts of his personal life were also entertaining, and I loved the section about how Tycho Brahe's son-in-law tried to manipulate him into being included as a co-author, but backed down when Kepler added financial conditions to the deal. If he hadn't been so cheap, they would now been called the Kepler-Tengnagel Laws. But the most surprising part was the chapter on Galileo, which differed from the familiar account to such a large extent that I could hardly believe my eyes. Instead of being a heroic figure cowed into silence by the reactionary forces of the Inquisition, Koestler's Galileo comes across as an arrogant and dishonest jerk. The disagreement with the Church is usually portrayed as simply being about the question of whether the Earth went round the Sun or vice versa, with Galileo clearly being the good guy. Koestler points out a host of perplexing divergences from the myth. To start with, Galileo was not defending state-of-the-art science, which was Kepler's system, but the outdated Copernican universe, by then nearly a century old; he had never bothered to read Kepler's books properly. The contrast was not against the traditional Ptolemaic system (everything goes round the Earth), but against the much more sophisticated system proposed by Tycho Brahe (the Sun and the Moon go round the Earth, all the other planets go round the Sun). And worst, Galileo had in fact no evidence at all to support the Copernican system against the Tychonian! The only thing that would have helped him was evidence that the stars moved slightly every year as a result of the Earth's movement around the Sun; but his instruments were nowhere near sensitive enough to measure stellar parallax, and in the event he cheated and fabricated a transparently incorrect argument. I had seen a related version before in Feyerabend's Against Method, but wasn't sure I should believe it. Well, clearly I must check this with the primary sources, which I am ashamed to say I have not read. Koestler's book is by no means perfect. He puts in more detail than he needs to, sometimes for no obvious reason, and it feels too long. He is not very good at science, and it is painfully clear why he stopped with Newton: he doesn't even seem to understand Newton's theories properly, much less the 20th century ones that he sometimes brings in as comparison points. I found most of his digressions into philosophy unconvincing. But he's found an astonishing amount of good material and assembled it into a compelling story. If you're interested in learning where modern science comes from, you might want to check him out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    This is a wonderfully readable and interesting account of the history of astronomy, and to some extent cosmology, up to and including Newton. Of particular interest are the quite detailed biographical sections of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler. I'm lengthening this review today by giving the table of contents. This should present a pretty fair idea of what Koestler covers. PART ONE : THE HEROIC AGE 1 Dawn 2 The Harmony of the Spheres 3 The Earth Adrift 4 The Failure of Nerve 5 The Divorce from Rea This is a wonderfully readable and interesting account of the history of astronomy, and to some extent cosmology, up to and including Newton. Of particular interest are the quite detailed biographical sections of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler. I'm lengthening this review today by giving the table of contents. This should present a pretty fair idea of what Koestler covers. PART ONE : THE HEROIC AGE 1 Dawn 2 The Harmony of the Spheres 3 The Earth Adrift 4 The Failure of Nerve 5 The Divorce from Reality PART TWO : DARK INTERLUDE 1 The Rectangular Universe 2 The Walled-in Universe 3 The Universe of the Schoolmen PART THREE : THE TIMID CANON 1 The Life of Copernicus 2 The System of Copernicus PART FOUR : THE WATERSHED 1 The Young Kepler 2 The 'Cosmic Mystery' 3 Growing Pains 4 Tycho de Brahe 5 Tycho and Kepler 6 The Giving of the Laws 7 Kepler Depressed 8 Kepler and Galileo 9 Chaos and Harmony 10 Computing a Bride 11 The Last Years PART FIVE : THE PARTING OF THE WAYS 1 The Burden of Proof 2 The Trial of Galileo 3 The Newtonian Synthesis Each PART has a chronological table appended to it. This much of the book consumes over 500 pages. There follows a 35 page Epilogue, a selected bibliography, 50+ pages of notes, and a fairly detailed index. The book has probably been in print ever since it was published in 1959. Equations? Math? Hardly any. Very readable for anyone with an interest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: The Misanthrope Next review: The Crusades Older review: ___ Previous library review: Organization Man William White Next library review: Mythology Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes - Edith Hamilton

  3. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction, by John Gray Preface (1968) Introduction (1959), by Herbert Butterfield --The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe Acknowledgements Selected Bibliography Notes Index Introduction, by John Gray Preface (1968) Introduction (1959), by Herbert Butterfield --The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe Acknowledgements Selected Bibliography Notes Index

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    I've never managed to get into Darkness At Noon. Poeple give it to me and they say "ooooh" and "you must" and "you'll love" and maybe one day I will, but so far I haven't. And that annoys me on some level because everywhere I go I run into Koestler references. It's in V for Vendetta, it's everywhere in the kind of books I enjoy reading. Plus, on the face of it, it's a book I really should enjoy. I completely see why everyone expects me to have read it or to flip out when I do. But I don't. But. But I've never managed to get into Darkness At Noon. Poeple give it to me and they say "ooooh" and "you must" and "you'll love" and maybe one day I will, but so far I haven't. And that annoys me on some level because everywhere I go I run into Koestler references. It's in V for Vendetta, it's everywhere in the kind of books I enjoy reading. Plus, on the face of it, it's a book I really should enjoy. I completely see why everyone expects me to have read it or to flip out when I do. But I don't. But. But... THIS book, I do get. I am even now reading and re-reading it, back to front and side to side and from the index and from the cover. And it is full of the best of stuff. Look: there are different ways of getting into a book. One of them is very subservient and obedient, and very often that is a good way. Very often, especially with fiction, it is almost the only way. But this is not fiction and in this case I am not so much following Koestler's flow as I am skipping from current to current in this little bit of his head and everywhere I swim I meet the biggest most awesome sharks and the most colourful fish. Also manatees. Let's leave that metaphor to go where it will. The point is that from my perspective right now, this is a golden book. Also: Anaximander's vision of the Earth? Superb. This is the kind of book writers should read. Thank you, Koestler.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Koestler brings a true passion to his cosmographical history, detailing man's theorizations and beliefs on the nature of the universe from ancient Mesopotamia through to the enforced recantation by Galileo of his heliocentric confirmations and the synthesis of his predecessor's pioneering work by Newton to establish the basis of modern science. Though all of his in-depth portrayals of the principal Renaissance cosmographic entrepreneurs - Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo - are delightful and inf Koestler brings a true passion to his cosmographical history, detailing man's theorizations and beliefs on the nature of the universe from ancient Mesopotamia through to the enforced recantation by Galileo of his heliocentric confirmations and the synthesis of his predecessor's pioneering work by Newton to establish the basis of modern science. Though all of his in-depth portrayals of the principal Renaissance cosmographic entrepreneurs - Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo - are delightful and informative, it is in his depiction of the irrepressible Johannes Kepler that the book reaches its apogee. Kepler's cheerful and unflagging efforts - in the face of poverty, disease, betrayal, stubbornness, blind alleys, mistakes, and tragedy - to establish a logical and mathematical basis for the planet's enigmatic orbits; his capacity for both sarcastic antagonization and affectionate loyalty in his dealings with others; his creative and virile genius in doing much of the leg work necessary for Galileo's success; in short, his so very human failings and virtues make his story the epitomy of the creative potential of the inspired human spirit. Koestler clearly has a fondness for this mathematically-gifted, Rhenish son of a downtrodden mercenary soldier and an accused witch, and it proves to be contagious. Koestler wanted to probe the almost mystical elements involved in the greatest of human discoveries, especially in the sciences; the title refers to his belief that so many of the pioneers in cosmography laboured and toiled down fruitless pathways using their powers of reason and logic, and only made their crucial breakthroughs under the inspiration of sudden flashes of insight that seemed to bubble up, unbidden and unawares, from the murky depths of the unconscious. I believe his theory has much to recommend it - but even if you don't hold to his occasionally eccentric views, The Sleepwalkers is a fantastic admixture of biography and history on a subject that has proven endlessly fascinating.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Throughout this highly detailed work by Koestler there is a pendulum swing that might be said to center on a balanced integration of the mystical with the rational. From a certain perspective, we could say that the force which causes the pendulum to swing is human free will and the ability we have to view the world from numerous perspectives. Yet the decisions coming out of free will can be heavily influenced by larger forces: "the cosmology of a given age is not the result of a unilinear, 'scie Throughout this highly detailed work by Koestler there is a pendulum swing that might be said to center on a balanced integration of the mystical with the rational. From a certain perspective, we could say that the force which causes the pendulum to swing is human free will and the ability we have to view the world from numerous perspectives. Yet the decisions coming out of free will can be heavily influenced by larger forces: "the cosmology of a given age is not the result of a unilinear, 'scientific' development, but rather the most striking, imaginative symbol of its mentality - the projection of its conflict, prejudices, and specific ways of double-think on to the graceful sky." (106) This larger environmental pressure on thought is sometimes shaken off by individuals who tap into an element of universal truth and carry it along the path towards a "logical conclusion". Yet none of these individuals ever possess the entire truth, and this can be said of societies, cultures and periods of time as well. Koestler takes the history of cosmology - from the Pythagoreans, Plato and Aristotle through Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton to illustrate how the progression of human intelligence (at all levels both "rational" and "mystical") is not linear, nor is it rational in the disinterested scientific sense. There is not a necessary progression to human thought or development. From the heliocentric conceptions of the Pythagoreans we see a regression through the Middle Ages, when we lose the idea of what Koestler calls "pure science" as an "intellectual delight and a way to spiritual release" (37) as well as a more accurate picture of the center of the universe with the regression to the earth center. Extremism presents itself in the form of scriptural interpretation vs. the reading of the transcendent message available in observed facts, which results in a limitation of vision. The divine reality has become too small. Humanity has limited it by an extreme focus on one element of the equation - in this case the mystical over the scientific. The reactionary response to this limitation is shown by Koestler to be extremism in the other direction, to the benefit of technological development but at the risk of complete annihilation of the species in both the physical and the spiritual sense. In both cases (mystical, scientific) the nature of divinity is confined, reduced, defined. Koestler attacks science for eliminating an entire field of potential thought through failing to recognize "purpose", but his statement could equally apply to the mystical as well: "It betrays a great lack of imagination to believe that the concept of 'purpose' must necessarily be associated with some anthropomorphic deity." (548) Extremism on the mystical side of the pendulum has allowed its vision of divinity to be defined by the scientific in that it reacts to this definition rather than transcending it through incorporating it into a more accurate picture of the whole or reality. In turn, Koestler warns science of its own lack of transcendence "It is therefore a perverse mistake to identify the religious need solely with intuition and emotion, science solely with the logical and rational" (531). In all of this there is a primordial truth waiting to be found and Koestler describes the creative process as a return through un-learning or shaking off the accumulated dross of environment while holding on to the good in accumulated human wisdom. Throughout the book, this last thought could be expanded into a central theme. Koestler uses this detailed history of human accomplishment through human means to illustrate the necessity of return to primordial truth while holding onto the underlying wisdom that we gain through various advancements. His own words can sum up: "If there is a lesson in our story it is that the manipulation, according to strictly self-consistent rules, of a set of symbols representing one single aspect of the phenomena may produce correct, verifiable predictions, and yet completely ignore all other aspects whose ensemble constitutes reality..." (544).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Esteban del Mal

    Read this for a graduate course in rationalism. I was particularly impressed by the section dedicated to Kepler, who, I am reminded, essentially wrote the first piece of science fiction waaaay back when. In the middle of the all the gory religious persecution of medieval Europe, a guy figured out that the planets move in an elliptical, as opposed to a circular, orbit around the sun. Koestler takes the reader through the stages of Kepler's thinking, with a wink and a nod to the intuitions that wo Read this for a graduate course in rationalism. I was particularly impressed by the section dedicated to Kepler, who, I am reminded, essentially wrote the first piece of science fiction waaaay back when. In the middle of the all the gory religious persecution of medieval Europe, a guy figured out that the planets move in an elliptical, as opposed to a circular, orbit around the sun. Koestler takes the reader through the stages of Kepler's thinking, with a wink and a nod to the intuitions that would, at times, lift him above that thinking. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Denisa

    I loved spending time with Koestler's strange and vigorous mind. Super engrossing book. An excellent in depth story about the development of astronomy and the people who made the measurements and interpreted the results. I have learned so many interesting stuff about the pioneers of the astronomy (Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo). Below, a few paragraphs that have caught my attention: -The progress of Science is generally regarded as a kind of clean, rational advance along a straight ascending lin I loved spending time with Koestler's strange and vigorous mind. Super engrossing book. An excellent in depth story about the development of astronomy and the people who made the measurements and interpreted the results. I have learned so many interesting stuff about the pioneers of the astronomy (Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo). Below, a few paragraphs that have caught my attention: -The progress of Science is generally regarded as a kind of clean, rational advance along a straight ascending line; in fact it has followed a zig zag course, at times almost more bewildering than the evolution of political thought. The history of cosmic theories, in particular, may without exaggeration be called a history of collective obsessions and controlled schizophrenias; and the manner in which some of the most important individual discoveries were arrived at reminds one more of a sleepwalker's performance than an electronic brain's. -Numbers are eternal while everything else is perishable they are of the nature not of matter, but of mind they permit mental operations of the most surprising and delightful kind without reference to the coarse external world of the senses – which is how the divine mind must be supposed to operate. The ecstatic contemplation of geometrical forms and mathematical laws is therefore the most effective means of purging the soul of earthly passion, and the principal link between man and divinity. - From the end of the sixth century B.C. onward, the idea that the earth was a sphere, freely floating in air, made steady head way. Herodotus 1 mentions a rumour that there exist people far up in the north who sleep six months of the year – which shows that some of the implications of the earth's roundness (such as the polar night) had already been grasped. The next, revolutionary step was taken by a pupil of Pythagoras, Philolaus, the first philosopher to attribute motion to our globe. The earth became air borne. -By the end of the third century B.C., the heroic period of Greek science was over. From Plato and Aristotle onward, natural science begins to fall into disrepute and decay, and the achievements of the Greeks are only rediscovered a millennium and a half later. The Promethean venture which had started around 600 B.C., had within three centuries spent its elan it was followed by a period of hibernation, which lasted five times as long. -From Aristarchus there is, logically, only one step to Copernicus; from Hippocrates, only a step to Paracelsus; from Archimedes, only a step to Galileo. And yet the continuity was broken for a time span nearly as long as that from the beginning of the Christian era to our day. Looking back at the road along which human science travelled, one has the image of a destroyed bridge with rafters jutting out from both sides; and in between, nothing. -Accordingly, the task of the mathematicians was now to design a system which would reduce the apparent irregularities in the motions of the planets to regular motions in perfectly regular circles. This task kept them busy for the next two thousand years. With his poetic and innocent demand, Plato laid a curse on astronomy, whose effects were to last till the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Kepler proved that planets move in oval, and not circular orbits. There is perhaps no other example in the history of thought of such dogged, obsessional persistence in error, as the circular fallacy which bedevilled astronomy for two millennia. -Now I have said before that we must beware of the word "obvious"; but in this particular case its use is legitimate. For Herakleides and the Pythagoreans had not been led to the heliocentric hypothesis by a lucky guess, but by the observed fact that the inner planets behaved like satellites of the sun, and that the outer planets' retrogressions and changes in earth distance were equally governed by the sun. Thus, by the end of the second century B.C., the Greeks had all the major elements of the puzzle in their hands, 7 and yet failed to put them together; or rather, having put them together, they took them to pieces again. They knew that the orbits, periods and velocities of the five planets were connected with, and dependent on, the sun – yet in the system of the universe which they bequeathed to the world, they managed to ignore completely this all important fact. -The curse of "spherism" upon man's vision of the universe lasted for two thousand years. During the last few centuries, from about A.D. 1600 onwards, the progress of science has been continuous and without a break so we are tempted to extend the curve back into the past and to fall into the mistaken belief that the advance of knowledge has always been a continuous, cumulative process along a road which steadily mounts from the beginnings of civilization to our present dizzy height. This, of course, is not the case. In the sixth century B.C., educated men knew that the earth was a sphere in the sixth century A.D., they again thought it was a disc, or resembling in shape the Holy Tabernacle. -Since, in the Middle Ages, the churchmen became the successors to the philosophers of antiquity, and, in a manner of speaking, the Catholic Church took over from the Academy and the Lyceum, its attitude now determined the whole climate of culture and the course of learning. Hence the importance of Augustine, who was not only the most influential churchman of the earlier Middle Ages, the chief promoter of the Papacy as a supranational authority, and the originator of the rules of monastic life; but above all the living symbol of continuity between the vanished ancient, and the emerging new civilization. A modern Catholic philosopher justifiably said that Augustine was "to a greater degree than any emperor or barbarian war lord, a maker of history and a builder of the bridge which was to lead from the old world to the new." -Indeed, Aristotle's omne quod movetur ab alio movetur – whatever is moved must be moved by another – became the main obstacle to the progress of science in the Middle Ages. This blindness to the fact that moving bodies tend to persist in their movement unless stopped or deflected, prevented the emergence of a true science of physics until Galileo. The necessity for every moving body to be constantly accompanied and pushed along by a mover, created "a universe in which unseen hands had to be in constant operation". 8 In the sky, a host of fifty five angels were needed to keep the planetary spheres moving around; on earth, each stone rolling down a slope, and each drop of rain falling from the sky, needed a quasi sentient purpose functioning as its "mover", to get from "potency" to "act". -Kepler's eye deficiency seems the most perfidious trick that fate could inflict on a stargazer; but how is one to decide whether an inborn affliction will paralyse or galvanize? The myopic child, who sometimes saw the world doubled or quadrupled, became the founder of modern optics (the word "dioptries" on the oculist's prescription is derived from the title of one of Kepler's books); the man who could only see clearly at a short distance, invented the modern astronomical telescope. We shall have occasion to watch the working of this magic dynamo, which transforms pain into achievement and curses into blessings. -The Keplerian discoveries were not of the kind which are "in the air" of a period, and which are usually made by several people independently; they were quite exceptional one man achievements. That is why the way he arrived at them is particularly interesting. -It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the fame of this outstanding genius (Galileo Galilei) rests mostly on discoveries he never made, and on feats he never performed. Contrary to statements in even recent outlines of science, Galileo did not invent the telescope nor the microscope nor the thermometer nor the pendulum clock. He did not discover the law of inertia nor the parallelogram of forces or motions nor the sun spots. He made no contribution to theoretical astronomy he did not throw down weights from the leaning tower of Pisa, and did not prove the truth of the Copernican system. He was not tortured by the Inquisition, did not languish in its dungeons, did not say "eppur si muove" and he was not a martyr of science. - Kepler: "The thing which dawned on me twenty five years ago before I had yet discovered the five regular bodies between the heavenly orbits ...; which sixteen years ago I proclaimed as the ultimate aim of all research; which caused me to devote the best years of my life to astronomical studies, to join Tycho Brahe and to choose Prague as my residence – that I have, with the aid of God, who set my enthusiasm on fire and stirred in me an irrepressible desire, who kept my life and intelligence alert, and also provided me with the remaining necessities through the generosity of two Emperors and the Estates of my land, Upper Austria – that I have now, after discharging my astronomical duties ad satietatum, at long last brought to light... Having perceived the first glimmer of dawn eighteen months ago, the light of day three months ago, but only a few days ago the plain sun of a most wonderful vision – nothing shall now hold me back. Yes, I give myself up to holy raving. I mockingly defy all mortals with this open confession: I have robbed the golden vessels of the Egyptians to make out of them a tabernacle for my God, far from the frontiers of Egypt. If you forgive me, I shall rejoice. If you are angry, I shall bear it. Behold, I have cast the dice, and I am writing a book either for my contemporaries, or for posterity. It is all the same to me. It may wait a hundred years for a reader, since God has also waited six thousand years for a witness..." -Other great scientists, including Newton, became embroiled in bitter polemics. But these were peripheral to their work, skirmishes around a solidly established position. The particular tragedy of Galileo was that his two major works were only published after his seventieth year. Up to then, his output consisted in pamphlets, tracts, manuscripts circulated privately, and oral persuasion – all of it (except the Star Messenger) polemical, ironically aggressive, spiced with arguments ad hominem. The best part of his life was spent in these skirmishes. Until the end he had no fortress in the form of a massive and solid magnum opus to fall back upon. -The uomo universale of the Renaissance, who was artist and craftsman, philosopher and inventor, humanist and scientist, astronomer and monk, all in one, split up into his component parts. Art lost its mythical, science its mystical inspiration; man became again deaf to the harmony of the spheres. The Philosophy of Nature became ethically neutral, and "blind" became the favourite adjective for the working of natural law. The space-spirit hierarchy was replaced by the space-time continuum. As a result, man's destiny was no longer determined from "above" by a superhuman wisdom and will, but from "below" by the sub-human agencies of glands, genes, atoms, or waves of probability. This shift of the locus of destiny was decisive. So long as destiny had operated from a level of the hierarchy higher than man's own, it had not only shaped his fate, but also guided his conscience and imbued his world with meaning and value. The new masters of destiny were placed lower in the scale than the being they controlled; they could determine his fate, but could provide him with no moral guidance, no values and meaning. A puppet of the Gods is a tragic figure, a puppet suspended on his chromosomes is merely grotesque.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I've read many of Arthur Koestler's books, enjoying all of them, fiction and non-fiction. This, like his Coincidence and Midwife Toad books, is of the latter category, being a history of astronomical science from the pre-socratics to its publication in 1971. The focus, however, is on several main figures, their scientific work explained within the context of their biographies, viz. Copernicus, de Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo. Newton, by way epilogue, wraps up the series without much biographical e I've read many of Arthur Koestler's books, enjoying all of them, fiction and non-fiction. This, like his Coincidence and Midwife Toad books, is of the latter category, being a history of astronomical science from the pre-socratics to its publication in 1971. The focus, however, is on several main figures, their scientific work explained within the context of their biographies, viz. Copernicus, de Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo. Newton, by way epilogue, wraps up the series without much biographical exposition. The book may be generally compared as a special case, that being astronomy, of what is considered in terms of science as a whole in Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions' (1962) and this within the even broader context of the relations between religion and science. In an epilogue Koestler takes on the problematics of contemporary microphysics and cosmology, seeing the incomprehensibility of both as indicative of a crisis comparable to that culminating during the 16-17th centuries prior to the synthesis effected by Newton. Interestingly, he does not take on 'the Big Bang' or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but he does demonstrate how modern physics can 'account for appearances', as Ptolemy did, without necessarily modeling reality, as modern planetary science does. As an aside, he throws in a plug for psi phenomena, an outlier to conventional physics possibly compatible with some future physics capable of reconciling Newton with Heisenberg. In the course of reading this well-written book I learned that much that I thought I knew about Copernicus and Galileo was mistaken--and not just because I'm not very intelligent, but because many, if not most, popular representations of them are radically oversimplified in service to a mistaken belief in the linear 'progress' of the sciences. Koestler's long view of the history of ideas serves as a corrective to the tendency to overestimate the achievements of the present and of one's own culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A heavy subject, but very interesting. A mixture of history, cosmology/astronomy, and physics. I never was good at physics back in school, due to whatever reason (mainly the way the teachers explained it, I guess). Astronomy was an interest of mine, but without all the mathematics and what not. History, too, but again, circumstances weren't always favourable. Or, in other words, once out of school, I became more interested in certain subjects at which I wasn't always successful in school. In any A heavy subject, but very interesting. A mixture of history, cosmology/astronomy, and physics. I never was good at physics back in school, due to whatever reason (mainly the way the teachers explained it, I guess). Astronomy was an interest of mine, but without all the mathematics and what not. History, too, but again, circumstances weren't always favourable. Or, in other words, once out of school, I became more interested in certain subjects at which I wasn't always successful in school. In any case, this book was a sort of blind purchase: I never checked reviews or other info prior to buying it. But the blurb looked interesting and the shopkeeper told me several other customers had really liked the book. Arthur Koestler has - or rather, had - a way with words. His style is quite fluent, eloquent (if I may write so). This is no fast-paced thriller, it's best to take your time to explore the many centuries of exploring the Solar System, from +/- 600 BC until the 17th century. Or, from a.o. the Babylonians until Newton, with in-between famous chaps like Ptolemy, Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Keywords: heliocentric cosmology, geocentric cosmology. Koestler presents a nice and detailed overview of how man's view on the cosmos changed from gods to a scientific approach (though that one came quite late). The book also tells how at some point in history, the perception was better - more accurate - than it was several centuries later, when the Church (or religion) was very adamant about Holy Scripture and how one could not go against that. Related to that: the trial against Galileo, for example. You can also read how e.g. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo found out by accident (whilst concentrating on other matters, other influences) about Earth's and other planets' rotation around the sun (and not the other way around). How one invented spheres to describe the movements of the planets, how another wrote of spokes, and how much later magnetism came into play. Of course, it's not all about those researches and findings of the various scientists (in whatever age they lived). The book also tells about the struggles, the hurdles and what not - especially - Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo had to face. But also how Galileo saw himself as THE chosen one with regards to the cosmos, how he claimed to have found the solution to problem x or y, while it were other researches who had done all the work, which Galileo never thought of examining and continued stubbornly his own work. This sort of matches - as far as I remember - the Galileo I read about in Kim Stanley Robinson's book, Galileo's Dream (see my review here). Copernicus is described as an introvert, one with a low self-esteem, very obedient towards authority. He also - pardon my French - lacked the balls to stand up for himself. When offered help and advice, he remained stubborn and didn't publish his findings. For a long time he clung unto the principles of Aristotle, who was partly responsible for the dark ages in cosmology, and didn't want to alter his views and theory. Isaac Newton is mentioned only briefly - certainly compared to the more detailed accounts about Corpernicus, Kepler, and Galileo - and mainly his findings and further explorations are discussed. Koestler wrote that there have been many books already about the man's life, that it wasn't really necessary to include such details, thus better to focus on his work. And so you'll read how he took elements from Kepler and from Galileo, and improved their examinations. In the Epilogue, Koestler throws in a large chunk of physics and some philosophy, but also looks back at the evolution of cosmology. And how the separation of religion and science sort of impoverished both and made our view on the cosmos and the world a rather cold one, since the workings come across as mechanistic; there's no god or other being to keep the system in place, to maintain it now and then (a perception people did have many centuries ago). Religion and science don't complement each other any more (unless you're open-minded to find that it's not one or the other, of course, that each is, one way or another, right). Throughout the book (and sometimes in the Notes section), you'll see several extracts (also very eloquently written, of course - very interesting if you're into languages) from the works, letters, ... of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. The whole is (fortunately) enhanced with chronological tables (summarizing each part of the book, or each historical era, featuring names, dates, short info), drawings/illustrations, and maps. In short: A very worthwhile synthesis of 2,000 years of cosmology (through European eyes) and how man's view changed massively, thanks to several bright minds, and despite the struggle with the Church. There's also enough food for thought for years to come. It has sparked my interest to read more about the subject. In due time, of course. P.S.: An interesting book for amateurs of Space Operas (SF) as well, obviously. ;-)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tentatively, Convenience

    I think I read 2 of Koestler's bks. This must've been one of them b/c I remember the subject matter but I reckon it's possible that there's another Koestler bk w/ a long section on Kepler (as this one has). Anyway, in some respects, this must've been an important bk to me b/c it wd've been one of the 1st I wd've read on 'heretics' - ie: people persecuted by Christian Gangstas for having a mind & using it for something other than Christian hegemony. Alas, this is the only bk I've read in my astro I think I read 2 of Koestler's bks. This must've been one of them b/c I remember the subject matter but I reckon it's possible that there's another Koestler bk w/ a long section on Kepler (as this one has). Anyway, in some respects, this must've been an important bk to me b/c it wd've been one of the 1st I wd've read on 'heretics' - ie: people persecuted by Christian Gangstas for having a mind & using it for something other than Christian hegemony. Alas, this is the only bk I've read in my astronomy section. Obviously, I 'need' to catch up on the subject! But, then, who can see the stars anymore? I live in the city. Strangely, I don't remember being that impressed w/ this. Maybe it was too drily scientific for me. Maybe I just didn't get it. In retrospect it seems like a fascinating subject. Then, though, I was more interested in art & literature - so it's probably remarkable that I slogged thru a 600+ page bk of this nature. Looking at it now I realize I shd add it to the read-again-if you-discover-you're-immortal category.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    I would devide my life to before and after reading Koestler. Reading Koestler for the first time, just released, Koestler changed me to a totally different person. He was a man of a generation who witnessed final disaster of civil war in Spain and descending and demolishing of hope by communism in Soviet, while confronting the invasion of Fashism in Europe. He explained his generation’s pain and frustration as a most brave looser, not sophisticated but very simple. The best description of the ti I would devide my life to before and after reading Koestler. Reading Koestler for the first time, just released, Koestler changed me to a totally different person. He was a man of a generation who witnessed final disaster of civil war in Spain and descending and demolishing of hope by communism in Soviet, while confronting the invasion of Fashism in Europe. He explained his generation’s pain and frustration as a most brave looser, not sophisticated but very simple. The best description of the time is when he says; The sun of the age of reason was setting down. Arrow in the Blue together with The Invisible Writing are kind of autobiography of first 35 years of Koestler's life. این اثر کستلر با عنوان “خوابگردها" توسط منوچهر روحانی ترجمه شده. من چاپ دوم آن را دیده ام که در 1361 منتشر شده است.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Great on Kepler and the Galileo trial, far too light on ancients and Newton. Kepler's difficult path to the three laws is detailed in full, especially the breakthrough to the first law which is not often described elsewhere. Galileo's opponents were not the nitwits we believed them to be. But ancient science was a much more interesting phenomenon than Koestler realizes. He mouths the same old criticisms of Plato and Aristotle, essentially blaming them for the beliefs of their later followers. In Great on Kepler and the Galileo trial, far too light on ancients and Newton. Kepler's difficult path to the three laws is detailed in full, especially the breakthrough to the first law which is not often described elsewhere. Galileo's opponents were not the nitwits we believed them to be. But ancient science was a much more interesting phenomenon than Koestler realizes. He mouths the same old criticisms of Plato and Aristotle, essentially blaming them for the beliefs of their later followers. In particular, the role of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum in framing the deductive structure of mathematics and the axiomatic system is ignored. Also the Alexandrian museum was started by members of the Lyceum.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mbogo J

    The first half, on whose strength this rating is based, was a masterpiece. It hit the sweet spot in prose, content and more so in clarity. Koestler included an often ignored line of thought; how religion influenced early understanding of the universe. Since the divorce of religion and science, this fact has been conveniently ignored resulting into a one sided story. The idea of the universe with walls can be traced to the Bible, similar to the idea that heavenly bodies having ladders and pulleys The first half, on whose strength this rating is based, was a masterpiece. It hit the sweet spot in prose, content and more so in clarity. Koestler included an often ignored line of thought; how religion influenced early understanding of the universe. Since the divorce of religion and science, this fact has been conveniently ignored resulting into a one sided story. The idea of the universe with walls can be traced to the Bible, similar to the idea that heavenly bodies having ladders and pulleys can be traced to the angels visiting Jacob. Without this background, the holders of these views sound like deluded idiots. In addition to this, in the first half Koestler traced the views of the universe from the ancient world, the middle ages through the Ionian school up until the age of Newton. The second half,which makes up the bulk of the book, will depend on your tastes. If you are more interested in the people behind the ideas then you will enjoy it but if you are like me who is more interested in the ideas with marginal interest in the people behind it, then you might not enjoy it so much. To further his thesis on which the book draws its title from, the idea of the early universe 'fathers' making cancelling errors which somehow resulted into the right thing, Koestler told us about their lives and in great detail. We are told about Copernicus, how he was reminded a million times to get rid of his mistress, we learn about how Tycho was stingy with his data, how Keppler might have had slight delusions on his reality and who will forget the controversial Galileo who called people who did not believe in Copernicus' heliocentricity half humans. This history is all good but when it becomes too much the tide turns. We are given letter correspondences in verbatim, dozens of letters, book excerpts are quoted in great detail, copies of Galileo's judgement are quoted, large chunks in verbatim! It will take a very interested soul to remain hooked on the subject. Unfortunately this deluge of information vindicated a hypothesis I have, any non fiction book no matter how good, once it exceeds 450+ pages, it turns into a wind bag spewing hot air to pad the extra sheets. To guard against this and the 'large' books gumming up my reading list, I normally read them concurrent with other "friendlier" books and over several months (i read this over a four month period). I would advise the reader to do the same, if you read it as your primary read there is a good chance you will shelve it after the umpteenth letter telling Copernicus to get rid of his mistress.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Armani

    Copernicus, who argued against a geocentric worldview, wanted to keep his book and information private, out the hands of masses and only give it to those initiated. However, his colleagues believed otherwise, and would ridicule him for keeping it secret. His belief was according to the ancient scriptures and Masonic worldview, but everyone else were already on a different movement. Why this clash? He wanted to keep the foundations unspoiled, while colleagues were on a different beat, that of, se Copernicus, who argued against a geocentric worldview, wanted to keep his book and information private, out the hands of masses and only give it to those initiated. However, his colleagues believed otherwise, and would ridicule him for keeping it secret. His belief was according to the ancient scriptures and Masonic worldview, but everyone else were already on a different movement. Why this clash? He wanted to keep the foundations unspoiled, while colleagues were on a different beat, that of, seemingly, appeasing crowds. I would tend to agree more with Copernicus, until the extent that one’s life may be in danger of being cut short and so they would need to give some information out earlier than planned, if anything. In those days Latin was the official academic language, which not everyone could read, and usually reading was a privilege of those who weren’t peasants. I think that says a lot and brings certain perspectives into context. However, again, I think all information has been known for some time, and the world is only a stage with pieces being moved. Aristotle and Ptolemy’s models relied on epicycles, but it was Copernicus who uncovered Aristarchus’s Ancient Greek heliocentric models. They were however mostly ignored until Galileo used them, which is when the Holy Roman Empire began to take them serious and ban them, placing the books on a Prohibited List and punishing proponents. It wasn’t until later they were accepted. While this is stuff we learn in elementary school, some of the details are only in books or able to be obtained by word of mouth. To step away from the concept of “things I learned,” specifically from this book, is that Johannes Kepler took a study under Tycho Brahe. From this book, most people don’t know, we learn that another Aristotle-Socrates-and-Plato like partnership occurred with Copernicus and Rheticus. However, trust didn’t run deep by the time Copernicus’ book was published. His motivation may have been to just give Copernicus a better public image. He was hesitant to publish his book. And it was based on a Ptolemaic model, which expanded the Aristotelian one. He may have not been entirely serious about the model besides it being an effort to advance the science, however futile. Einstein and Bohr also formed one such group in the 1920’s, as this tradition was continued with such conferences as the Solvay. Let me clarify further my stepping away from the “things I learned from reading this book” concept: I studied astronomy in college, at both university and community college, so some of the information in this book is known. I rely on m, mostly, two college textbooks from the courses and other supplemental material such as, for physics, Hawkings’s standard A Brief History of Time and A Briefer History of Time books, which I sadly gave away and don’t have anymore. It’s also reiterated here that homo and bisexuals a like were useful in the teaching of the sciences usually through a professorship. Thus while Copernicus had his faults, he was useful to the system by being willing to teach. This implies a negative view of gender roles, as if the masculine side of society finds no use in academia as some find sports a waste of time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael Cayley

    An extremely readable account of the history of some key developments in human understanding of the universe. This is a book I read a long time ago, but which has stayed vividly in my memory.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liedzeit

    When I was fourteen or fifteen I thought I had a pretty good idea about the accomplishments of the great scientists. Copernikus was the greatest of them all. Because he was the first who dared to put the sun into the center of the universe, he singlehandedly dragged mankind out of the middle ages into the present. He put theology into second place and science in first. He was scared though and only published his book when he was on his death bed. He gave the world not only a new cosmology but al When I was fourteen or fifteen I thought I had a pretty good idea about the accomplishments of the great scientists. Copernikus was the greatest of them all. Because he was the first who dared to put the sun into the center of the universe, he singlehandedly dragged mankind out of the middle ages into the present. He put theology into second place and science in first. He was scared though and only published his book when he was on his death bed. He gave the world not only a new cosmology but also a new concept: revolution! Then there was Galileo Galilei. Who proved that Copernicus was right, who invented the telescope and established modern physics. And he was as brave as he was brilliant. Although when put on trial by the stupid representatives of the Catholic church he stepped back. But not really Eppur si muove and all that. He was very nearly a martyr. And in between was Kepler, famous for his three laws but not really in a league with the other two guys. And planets moving on an ellipsis? What is so great about this? Since then I had to change my views a bit (especially about Galileo) but was still in for a surprise when reading Koestler. I learned many things. Copernicus did not put the sun into the center, but the center of Earth’s orbit (outside the sun), his system was not simpler than Ptolomeys, he needed more epicycles. And so on. But mainly, that it was Kepler who was the greatest mind. It is in fact not the heliocentric system that was brand new but the fact that planets did not move in circles and that their speed was not constant. And Galileo is presented, let us say, not in the brightest of lights. Not only did he behave badly, he was foolishly wrong on many points, e.g. with his theory of tides, but mainly for ignoring Kepler’s insights. The best thing is that Koestler admits having his own biases. In the case of Galileo, he judges the man by his correspondence with Kepler. And that is the main thing one can learn by reading this book. Although we know a lot about these men it is sometimes simple facts that influence our view. And this is true not only for individuals. One intriguing thing I learned is that Kepler’s mother was very nearly burned as a witch (and much nearer actual torture than Galileo) and that in a span of 20 years in her village Weil der Stadt out of 200 families 38 witches were burned! (If Koestler is really to be trusted here.) The main subject of the book is Koestler’s view of progress. There is no straight line. The influence of Aristotle and Plato shifted a number of times during history. Great results were made by making mistakes that canceled each other out. Koestler was not a scientist but a journalist. Which is a good thing in this case. He knows how to write and when reading you are always aware (and so is he himself) that maybe he will be stretching truth to make a point. For a book on science that is 70 years old, it is amazing how much it still has to say (at least to us laymen). For one thing, he gives us a view on the history of science that very nearly makes the work of Thomas Kuhn redundant. 9/10

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ravi

    This is a history and philosophy of our understanding of the cosmos, focusing on figures like Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. Koestler's key argument here is that rather than being continuous, scientific progress is a random, meandering process like sleepwalking. He equates it to Darwinian evolution: scientific ideas crop up like mutations, most of which are benign and ignored, but some of which are harmful and set progress back. Those mutations that are truly paradigm shifts are This is a history and philosophy of our understanding of the cosmos, focusing on figures like Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. Koestler's key argument here is that rather than being continuous, scientific progress is a random, meandering process like sleepwalking. He equates it to Darwinian evolution: scientific ideas crop up like mutations, most of which are benign and ignored, but some of which are harmful and set progress back. Those mutations that are truly paradigm shifts are the ones that get recorded in the history books. But rather than being revolutionaries or martyrs, these thinkers were often flawed, arrogant, egotistical, and stubborn, believing in centuries-old Ptolemaic or Aristotelian ideals like perfect solids or circular motion against their better judgment (and even data!). The book is dense and thoroughly researched (maybe to its detriment); I think it would have been twice as good if it were half as long.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Ele

    Amazing book which chronicles the way that humans have viewed the universe in which they reside, since the Ancient Greeks. It deals with the works of Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo in depth. It ends with Newton and an analysis of the new synthesis that occurred with his works. It details the intellectual, political, and religious climates respective to each of them. The manner in which they reached their conclusions is very detailed, especially Kepler's methods of inquiry. The b Amazing book which chronicles the way that humans have viewed the universe in which they reside, since the Ancient Greeks. It deals with the works of Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo in depth. It ends with Newton and an analysis of the new synthesis that occurred with his works. It details the intellectual, political, and religious climates respective to each of them. The manner in which they reached their conclusions is very detailed, especially Kepler's methods of inquiry. The book ends with a modern epilogue which briefly details the state of science and religion today. A highly recommended read, if you are interested in any of the above mentioned.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Astronomy plays a special role in the history of science. Its lineage goes back to the early Mesopotamians, and its development traces out man's changing view of the universe and his place in it. We see this in action in AK's detailed and absorbing biographies of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo (plus abbreviated biographies of Brahe and Newton), as each struggled to grow beyond the outlook of his age. These biographies are married to a recapitulation of the philosophical world of the antique Gree Astronomy plays a special role in the history of science. Its lineage goes back to the early Mesopotamians, and its development traces out man's changing view of the universe and his place in it. We see this in action in AK's detailed and absorbing biographies of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo (plus abbreviated biographies of Brahe and Newton), as each struggled to grow beyond the outlook of his age. These biographies are married to a recapitulation of the philosophical world of the antique Greeks and an epilogue with fascinating reflections on the psychological and societal underpinnings of creativity, which AK takes up in his later books: The Act of Creation and Ghost in the Machine. (At moments, one thinks of Thomas Kuhn, as well as Ian McGilchrist).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Farhad E

    A great book on the history of science. I have been reading Koestler for the past 40 years and he never disappoints me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mommalibrarian

    good read on the history of ideas - science crawling out of men's imagination around the minefield of religious teaching. I am sure many people have explored this but I enjoyed Koestler's book and have read it all twice and some portions more. It is not a perfect book as he has a little vendetta against one particular scientist but you will recognize the spot when you hit it and can just read the first sentence for each paragraph until you get into interesting less prejudicial topics again. good read on the history of ideas - science crawling out of men's imagination around the minefield of religious teaching. I am sure many people have explored this but I enjoyed Koestler's book and have read it all twice and some portions more. It is not a perfect book as he has a little vendetta against one particular scientist but you will recognize the spot when you hit it and can just read the first sentence for each paragraph until you get into interesting less prejudicial topics again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Arwen

    I'd forgotten how much I liked this book...it's old-fashioned criticism at its best, intensely readable and deeply humanist. While I don't think it's a "provocative" book any more (as Sir Bernard Lovell claimed 40 years ago), it's a wonderful re-tangling of the humanities and sciences and a great way to get a quick understanding of how the major scientific discoveries of the last few millennia unfolded as well as a sense for the scientists and movements that made them. I'd forgotten how much I liked this book...it's old-fashioned criticism at its best, intensely readable and deeply humanist. While I don't think it's a "provocative" book any more (as Sir Bernard Lovell claimed 40 years ago), it's a wonderful re-tangling of the humanities and sciences and a great way to get a quick understanding of how the major scientific discoveries of the last few millennia unfolded as well as a sense for the scientists and movements that made them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    A great classic A bit pompous and skimpy in its coverage of Greco-Roman and Medieval views and progress. Though it does note the profoundly deadening effect on human thought and intellectual progress wrought by the philosophies of Plato ( and the neo-platonists) and Aristotle. Augustine doesn’t do much better. He asks just what was it that so impeded progress. He concludes it wasn’t primarily religious intolerance, dogmatism and oppression. Though that certainly didn’t help. But deeper factors. R A great classic A bit pompous and skimpy in its coverage of Greco-Roman and Medieval views and progress. Though it does note the profoundly deadening effect on human thought and intellectual progress wrought by the philosophies of Plato ( and the neo-platonists) and Aristotle. Augustine doesn’t do much better. He asks just what was it that so impeded progress. He concludes it wasn’t primarily religious intolerance, dogmatism and oppression. Though that certainly didn’t help. But deeper factors. Read the book. The cynic would say, its simple. Creativity is rare and most of us are just puppets, repeating endlessly in a meaningless loop. Terrified of the unknown and desperately denying that anything can be too hard for us. His coverage of the early superheroes of the dawning age of science is superb, very thorough and detailed. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo. We discover that our heroes were deeply flawed and most subsequent hagiographies superficial and incorrect. Copernicus was timid and submissive. Galileo was pompous and pugilistic. Both often cheated and lied to obtain their immediate ends. Only Kepler comes across as basically optimistic and heroic. And yet he spent his life chasing a chimera - regular polyhedra encompassing universal harmony. The three laws were something come across on the side and of no huge importance to him. But he was one of the first to start thinking in terms of dynamics rather than kinematics and Galileo bought this to further fruition. He finishes up with some relatively standard comments on today’s relationship between religion and morality and meaning on the one hand and science on the other. Nothing particularly novel here. Which isn’t to say it’s not an important question. Given the murderous barbaric history of all organised religions it seems odd to use morality and religion in the same phrase but thats another question entirely.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Iancu S.

    A wonderful bit of revisionist history. Brings to life the astronomical controversies from Copernicus to Kepler and Galileo, and makes a particularly convincing case against the popular view of the "obscurantist" church that simply refused to "listen to reason". Turns out, the *empirical* debate around geocentrism was not as clear-cut as hindsight would have it, and the author makes an intriguing case that it was Galileo's *personality*, rather than his *ideas* that set him up for his eventual t A wonderful bit of revisionist history. Brings to life the astronomical controversies from Copernicus to Kepler and Galileo, and makes a particularly convincing case against the popular view of the "obscurantist" church that simply refused to "listen to reason". Turns out, the *empirical* debate around geocentrism was not as clear-cut as hindsight would have it, and the author makes an intriguing case that it was Galileo's *personality*, rather than his *ideas* that set him up for his eventual trial - in particular, his attacks on leading Jesuits of the time (that were also leading astronomers and initially *improved* on his observations of Venus and Saturn). Paradoxically, Koestler suggests the Church had been mulling the idea of adopting Tycho de Brache's planetary model (all planets circle the Sun, Sun circles the Earth) as a halfway house that could have eased the transition to a system where *everything* goes round the sun, as and when a stronger case could be made for it (For, it must be remembered, the differrent models fitted *the facts* more or less equally well, it was mostly their mathematical apparatus (the wheels upon wheels of epicycles) that differed. And, interestingly, Koestler argues that Copernicus didn't bring massive simplifications, and even *increased* the number of epicycles compared to the Ptolemaic geocentrism) But - in an interesting corollary on radicalism and unintended consequences- Galileo's insistence on an all-or-nothing approach (geocentrism or bust) seems to have forced the Church into a wholesale condemnation. The book is an engaging read about scientists as social beings, pursuing their ideas in tandem with their obsessions, and often *stumbling upon*, rather than reasoning into, discoveries (hence the title).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Petros

    This is an examination of the development of thought around astronomy. It starts from the magical beginnings of ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, where stars were sorties of gods and spirits and dictated human fate, but where the first attempts of systematic observation also took place. Then moves on to the attempts by ancient Greeks to understand the nature of the universe and how it works, starting to express it with numbers and even concluding that the earth is round, rotates around its a This is an examination of the development of thought around astronomy. It starts from the magical beginnings of ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, where stars were sorties of gods and spirits and dictated human fate, but where the first attempts of systematic observation also took place. Then moves on to the attempts by ancient Greeks to understand the nature of the universe and how it works, starting to express it with numbers and even concluding that the earth is round, rotates around its axis and moves around the sun along with the other planets. Subsequently, he examines how, after 3 centuries of progress, the thought closed up again, into the Platonic and Aristotelian dogmas (even though the Ptolemaic model, while wrong, provided fairly accurate predictions for the needs of the time). Then, Koestler observes how for the next 1500+ years the thinking remains static with zero progress or even some regress and suddenly, around the 16-17th centuries, it starts to light up again and move past previous dogmas towards a new and better understanding of the natural world. He very closely follows the life of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, and tries to understand what made these men take the first giants leaps into modern scientific thinking after so many centuries of extensive closed-mindedness and how the societies around them dealt with these developments. He closes up with a short chapter on Newton and an epilogue with his (Koestler’s) general thoughts and ideas. Koestler argues that the driving force behind these discoveries was not love for reason and logic, but rather mystical and religious feelings. He ponders on how the mind can be compartmentalized, with dogma and rationality coexisting (but also with dogma not allowing rationality to become truly creative), but also wonders if fully abandoning spiritual/mystical feelings is also inhibitory towards a fully creative scientific exploration of the world. The details the book describes about the lives and work of Copernicus, Koehler and Galileo are really interesting and allow for a window to the thought-process and emotional world of these great thinkers, and allow for a retracing of their thought process towards discoveries and realizations about the world that the human race had never thought of before. I really liked this book. Some things I wasn’t entirely convinced by as I find that Koestler has a small bias in favor for “magical” thinking (showcased by his belief in extra-sensory perception), but they still sometimes make for an interesting point of view. Other than that, my main disappointment about the book is that I think it would have been much better if Koestler chose to also expose the life of Newton (and perhaps also Descartes). In any case, a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Capron

    Another wide ranging history - from the Great Chain of Being to Newton - but mainly focused on math and science. The title is based on the way Kepler and Tycho de Brahe got together to pool their talents. It also applies to Kepler's tendency to make a serious error in his calculations that is subsequently cancelled out by another error, allowing him to sleepwalk to the correct answer. And describing Newton's theories on gravity - "one is able to realize the enormous courage - or sleepwalker's as Another wide ranging history - from the Great Chain of Being to Newton - but mainly focused on math and science. The title is based on the way Kepler and Tycho de Brahe got together to pool their talents. It also applies to Kepler's tendency to make a serious error in his calculations that is subsequently cancelled out by another error, allowing him to sleepwalk to the correct answer. And describing Newton's theories on gravity - "one is able to realize the enormous courage - or sleepwalker's assurance - that was needed to use it as the basic concept of cosmology." Koestler insists that Galileo didn't get in trouble for his heliocentric theory but partly for being an asshole for decades and also for insisting that the earth moves (although it's hard to envision a heliocentric model where the earth sits still). Apparently there are at least 4 places in the Bible where God pretty clearly states that the Earth doesn't move - Ecclesiastes 1:4, Joshua 10:13, Psalm 104:5 and Genesis. Galileo's theory of tides was based on a star parallax that was obviously wrong even at the time he was proposing it and caused all this trouble, although Kepler had already proposed the correct theory for tides. I was looking forward to his epilogue, but it was quite dated. Poor Brahe's dying words were "Let me not seem to have lived in vain"

  28. 4 out of 5

    George Alberts

    I have now read this book 3 times and I think I will re-read it at least one or two more times! Manny - a reviewer below, has done a great job of providing a review and I suggest all read his! However I am amazed, for example, at the decades of work that Kepler spent in figuring out how the solar system is really put together (pre-Newton and pre-Einstein cs). Years following one approach, not comfortable with the results, then another major approach, then another, fruitlessly trying to solve the I have now read this book 3 times and I think I will re-read it at least one or two more times! Manny - a reviewer below, has done a great job of providing a review and I suggest all read his! However I am amazed, for example, at the decades of work that Kepler spent in figuring out how the solar system is really put together (pre-Newton and pre-Einstein cs). Years following one approach, not comfortable with the results, then another major approach, then another, fruitlessly trying to solve the puzzle, which he finally did in the formulation of Kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion!! Then about Galileo, in this I side with the Roman Catholic Church at the time. Bruno had already proclaimed that the heliocentric view of Copernicus was correct. (That he was stripped naked, hung upside down and burned was not necessarily because of this viewpoint but other religious opinions.) However Galileo proclaimed that the heliocentric model was the correct one, which the Church said it was alright to formulate that hypothesis, but he could not say that it was "the" correct one, unless he could prove it! Well he could not!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Fleezy

    Just finished reading The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the changing philosophy and history of Western science, especially its relationship with religion. Koestler synthesises the human thought processes of scientific giants such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo to explore how and why humanity seems at times mired in dogma and in other times seeing times of scientific progress that jumps in leaps and bounds. The most interesting part for me was Just finished reading The Sleepwalkers by Arthur Koestler. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the changing philosophy and history of Western science, especially its relationship with religion. Koestler synthesises the human thought processes of scientific giants such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo to explore how and why humanity seems at times mired in dogma and in other times seeing times of scientific progress that jumps in leaps and bounds. The most interesting part for me was the epilogue of the book, where Koestler asks whether our modern materialist scientific thought is experiencing the same issues, especially in light of the uncertain and highly abstract entrance of quantum mechanics to human thought (Note that the book was written in the 1950s). Koestler laments the strict divorce of spiritualism from science, and hesitantly posits that humanity's unconscious mind may be far more important than the increasingly dogmatised materialist worldview can accept. An interesting read and one interesting for its history on astronomy, philosophy, mathematics, and human thought.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Steve Wegman

    A history of cosmology from Ptolemy & Pythagoras to Newton with hundreds of pages of biography on Copernicus, Kepler & Galileo. Who knew that Galileo was a jerk and the Catholic Church bent over backwards to keep him out of trouble? The epilogue is especially important in that it ponders the disassociation of religion and science - what we've lost with what we've gained, and how modern physics incomprehensible explanations of how the universe works are in a way similar to the ancients supernatur A history of cosmology from Ptolemy & Pythagoras to Newton with hundreds of pages of biography on Copernicus, Kepler & Galileo. Who knew that Galileo was a jerk and the Catholic Church bent over backwards to keep him out of trouble? The epilogue is especially important in that it ponders the disassociation of religion and science - what we've lost with what we've gained, and how modern physics incomprehensible explanations of how the universe works are in a way similar to the ancients supernatural explanations

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...