November 16, 2001
From earliest pre-history, with the dawning understanding of fire and its many uses, including cooking and pottery, up to the twenty-first century and the 26-kilometre underground particle accelerator, this is a fascinating exploration of mankind’s innovative nature. Thomas Crump describes how our creativity, expressed in the design and production of tools and scientific instruments has continually extended the frontiers of science and, as a consequence, human civilization.
Ever more sophisticated means have been employed in our attempts to understand the universe. The gnomons and sundials of antiquity led on, in Renaissance Europe, to standardized measurements recorded in Arabic numerals. Starting around 1600, the modern age – characterized by steady improvement in communications, comfort and chances of survival – followed with instruments such as microscopes, thermometers and chemical balances, spectroscopes, vacuum pumps and X-rays, particle counters and accelerators, semi-conductors and micro-processors – all continuously developing according to the state-of-the-art technology. The book also describes the apparatus designed to create and observe matter at temperatures close to absolute zero, below that of any gas, where normal properties such as electrical resistance no longer hold.
Few writers in recent times have attempted an overview of the bewilderingly immense history of scientific advances. However, in A Brief History of Science – focusing on our own ingenious and curious nature – Thomas Crump succeeds in giving an accessible and enjoyable account of mankind’s march towards technology.
Thomas Crump’s passionate interest in science and its history has given rise to a number of books, most recently Solar Eclipse and The Anthropology of Numbers. A mathematician and anthropologist, until his retirement he taught anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.