This book is an encyclopedic presentation of the birth and rise of science in the West, up to the Golden Age of Greece. Its theme is that ancient science reached its zenith in Greece, culminating in the achievements of Aristotle and his school. Sarton examines the pivotal scientific developments and developers in fields ranging from mathematics and medicine to geography and history.
For a history of science, there is an unusual amount of philosophical discussion. Sarton depicts Platonic mysticism as retarding the development of science, and sees Aristotelian reasoning as serving it. He writes: "The greatest achievement, the climax, of the enormously long period that this book has covered seems to be the Aristotelian synthesis. ...Aristotle had put in good order the knowledge then available in astronomy, physics, zoology, ethics, politics, but in addition he had built up a philosophy that was well documented, rational and moderate." (So much for the bromide about Aristotle retarding the progress of science for two millenia!)
The drawbacks of the book, such as a misassessment of certain philosophic doctrines, are few and easily overlooked. Ancient Science is a valuable work, which skillfully presents the intriguing history of early science. (682 pages)
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