Lost Discoveries:

Dick Teresi

Lost Discoveries: cover



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Lost Discoveries, Dick Teresi's innovative history of science, explores the unheralded scientific breakthroughs from peoples of the ancient world -- Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, Africans, New World and Oceanic tribes, among others -- and the non-European medieval world. They left an enormous heritage in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry, and technology. Publisher's Weekly Science journalist Teresi (coauthor of The God Particle) has combed the literature to catalogue the scientific advances made by early non-Western societies and to determine their impact on Western science. His work spans millennia and encompasses the full extent of the globe. He points out, for example, that five millennia ago the Sumerians concluded that the earth was round. He also provides information on cultures of the Middle East, India, China, Africa and Oceania, as well as a host of New World cultures, predominately those of Mesoamerica. Throughout, readers learn that scientific knowledge of various sorts in diverse forms has been a part of all cultures. In chapters on mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry and technology, Teresi makes a convincing argument that Western science has often been indebted to advances made elsewhere (mineralogy was studied in Africa as early as 5000 B.C.). Teresi is at his strongest in the section on mathematics, where he discusses the evolution of Arabic numerals from the ancient Indians and the earliest conceptualizations of zero and infinity. Much less compelling are his assertions that early societies foreshadowed the ideas of quantum mechanics. Although a bit uneven, Teresi offers a great deal of fascinating material largely ignored by many histories of science. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. What a terrific read! Teresi, a reviewer, essayist, and cofounder of Omni magazine, brings to light the many fascinating advances made by ancient, non-Western cultures. If you think that modern science is rooted in the golden age of Greece, you owe it to yourself to read his book. Supported by exhaustive research and a board of expert advisers, the author details the rich intellectual gifts from peoples whose histories are often neglected by our Eurocentric culture. He explores important contributions in the areas of mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry, and technology made by Pacific Islanders, Africans, Chinese, Indians, Arabs, and others. While it is an excellent multidisciplinary text for college-level classes, Teresi's work will also appeal to readers interested in science and intrigued by cultural histories. Extensive notes and a selected bibliography are organized by discipline. A wonderful addition to both academic and public libraries. Denise Hamilton, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. Kirkus Reviews The often suppressed or overlooked scientific work of non-Western thinkers is given a clear-eyed airing by science historian Teresi (The God Particle, not reviewed) and found to be deeply impressive. Teresi thought he'd attempt to show the limited contributions of non-Europeans to the sciences. It was to be a clarifying response to the outlandish claims being posited of the capabilities of ancient sciences, but that aim, says the author, was "overtaken by the pleasure of discovering mountains of unappreciated human industry, four thousand years of scientific discoveries by peoples I had been taught to disregard." For skeptic Teresi, science is the logical and systematic study of nature and the physical world, usually involving experimentation and theory, with a measure of falsification thrown in, so not just any circumstantial tidbit will do. That he comes up with a whole lot of good stuff in math, chemistry, cosmology, astronomy, physics, geology, and technology is a given: the early Indians' use of zero and negative numbers, and their enduring atomist theories of matter; Sumerian algebra; remarkable Oceanic star maps and New World opt