By Philip Ball
With the hot touchdown of the Mars rover interest, it kind of feels secure to imagine that the belief of being curious is alive and good in glossy science—that it’s now not purely inspired yet is noticeable as an integral part of the medical project. but there has been a time while interest was once condemned. Neither Pandora nor Eve might face up to the damaging attract of unanswered questions, and all wisdom wasn’t equal—for millennia it was once believed that there have been a few issues we must always no longer try and comprehend. within the past due 16th century this angle started to switch dramatically, and in interest: How technological know-how got interested in every thing, Philip Ball investigates how interest first grew to become sanctioned—when it replaced from a vice to a advantage and the way it grew to become permissible to invite any and each query in regards to the world.
Looking heavily on the 16th via eighteenth centuries, Ball vividly brings to existence the age whilst sleek technology begun, a time that spans the lives of Galileo and Isaac Newton. during this pleasing and illuminating account of the increase of technological know-how as we all know it, Ball tells of scientists either mythical and lesser identified, from Copernicus and Kepler to Robert Boyle, in addition to the innovations and applied sciences that have been encouraged by way of interest itself, reminiscent of the telescope and the microscope. The so-called clinical Revolution is frequently instructed as a narrative of serious geniuses illuminating the area with flashes of concept. yet interest unearths a extra advanced tale, during which the liberation—and next taming—of interest used to be associated with magic, faith, literature, go back and forth, alternate, and empire. Ball additionally asks what has develop into of interest at the present time: the way it features in technological know-how, the way it is spun and packaged for intake, how good it really is being sustained, and the way the altering form of technology impacts the categories of questions it could possibly proceed to ask.
Though proverbial knowledge let us know that it was once via interest that our innocence used to be misplaced, that has no longer deterred us. as an alternative, it's been thoroughly the opposite: this present day we spend tremendous sums attempting to reconstruct the 1st instants of production in particle accelerators, out of a natural wish to comprehend. Ball refuses to allow us to take this wish with no consideration, and this booklet is an ideal homage to such an inquisitive angle.
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Extra info for Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything
John Evelyn (1667) Anyone who wanted to study the natural world in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries needed, on the whole, to enjoy one of a limited range of circumstances. To be both fabulously wealthy and leisured (and of course male) was probably the best position. If you could secure a university post, your salary was guaranteed but you might have to abide by the conventional rules of enquiry – if not to be an obedient Aristotelian, then at least not to rock the boat. Some priests and other clerics were able to indulge their curiosity in the course of their religious duties.
The Florentine philosopher Marsilio Ficino was one of the principal architects of this synthesis. At the request of the city’s prince Cosimo de’ Medici he founded the Platonic Academy in a villa at Careggi in the hills outside the city, and in 1462 Ficino translated for Cosimo the newly discovered works of Hellenistic Gnosticism known as the Corpus Hermeticum, as well as a new version of Timaeus and the writings of Plato’s disciple Plotinus, the founder of classical Neoplatonism. There’s no harm in attaching to Ficino the cliché exhausted on Leonardo – that he was a Renaissance man – if we turn it on its head in meaning precisely that he was a product of his times.
Here, then, was apparently a systematic realization of Leonardo’s method of trial and replication, distinct from the credulity of the much-maligned ‘empiric’ of the early Renaissance who would believe everything he was told. The Accademia Segreta allegedly based their programme on, if not exactly scepticism, then at least discernment. Crucially, their experiments were not tests of theories – on the whole the professors of secrets were wary of theorizing. Rather, they were tests of whether the claims espoused for particular procedures and concoctions were valid.
Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball