A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future. Charles Van Doren. Citadel.

A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future Book Cover A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future
Charles Van Doren
January 1991

This monumental book covers every aspect of knowledge – scientific, intellectual and historical – from the beginning of the human experience into the twenty-first century and beyond. It is the culmination of a lifetime’s work by the former editorial director of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Charles Van Doren’s astonishing book not only provides a history of the discovery of great things, but also of concepts and ideas – for example, not just the discovery and building of a computer, but the idea behind it. Ideas and principles as they were conceived are placed in historical context, and, at the same time, the stories behind them in the history of the people who discover them are depicted.

Highly readable and intriguing, A History of Knowledge examines the individual contributions to knowledge of the great minds of humankind: from Buddha and Confucius to Christ and Muhammad, from Thales, Democritus and Aristotle to Thomas Alva Edison and Albert Einstein, from Sophocles and Euripides to Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, from Socrates to Nietzsche and Freud, from Cervantes to Goethe, Yeats, Kafka and Mann. A History of Knowledge also reveals how the past always impinges on the present and the future. And the explosion of new knowledge that marks our own time and beyond is discussed in fascinating detail.

The author raises and answers the question: What can the past teach us about the future? He offers wise and provocative forecasts for the next hundred years and answers such questions as: What will happen to computers? Will there be a computer revolt? What about eugenics? Will war come to an end? What about drugs? What will be the fate of democracy? Concerning these and many other subjects, A History of Knowledge offers surprising and persuasive insights.

Charles Van Doren has advanced degrees in both literature and mathematics and has written and edited more than a score of books, many of them in the field of history. His previous book, The Joy of Reading, enjoyed considerable critical acclaim. Mortimer J. Adler said that the book, which reviewed a lifetime of reading, “has laid a feast before all of us that is irresistible.” Van Doren is currently the associate director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in Chicago. He lives in Connecticut.