In Science, Patricia Fara rewrites science's past to provide new ways of understanding and questioning our modern technological society. Sweeping through the centuries from ancient Babylon right up to the latest hi-tech experiments in genetics and particle physics, Fara's book also ranges internationally, challenging notions of European superiority by emphasizing the importance of scientific projects based around the world, including revealing discussions of China and the Islamic Empire alongside the more familiar stories about Copernicus's sun-centered astronomy, Newton's gravity, and Darwin's theory of evolution.
We see for instance how Muslim leaders encouraged science by building massive libraries, hospitals, and astronomical observatories and we rediscover the significance of medieval Europe--long overlooked--where, surprisingly, religious institutions ensured science's survival, as the learning preserved in monasteries was subsequently developed in new and unique institutions: universities. Instead of focussing on esoteric experiments and abstract theories, she explains how science belongs to the practical world of war, politics, and business. And 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.
By showing how science "has been built up from knowledge and skills developed in other parts of the world" and how it "belongs to the world of war, politics, and business," Fara's (history and philosophy of science, Cambridge Univ.; Newton: The Making of a Genius) well-written book counteracts overly Eurocentric accounts that portray science history as the successive triumph of one scientific genius, experiment, or theory over another. A true introduction, it synthesizes an impressive amount of scholarship without overwhelming the reader with the usual scholarly apparatus. While there are few footnotes in the text, there is a "Special Sources" section citing primarily recent scholarly works that could easily serve as a gateway to a more in-depth investigation. Unfortunately, the scope of the book (4000 years in about 400 pages) leaves little room to explore in detail the movement of specific scientific ideas or practices across cultures or across time. Nonetheless, the book is unique for including non-Western sources, something that few books about the history of science for the nonspecialist do. Recommended for public and academic libraries, for the undergraduate reader. (Index not seen.)