Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview
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The earliest mature forms of modern natural science are usually thought to have been born in the seventeenth century, that is, some two millennia after its time-related foundations were laid in ancient Greek thought. This new way of looking at the world came into being when an amalgam of Greek wisdom and Arab science entered European consciousness, which was ready, with its mixture of ideas and social values, to create and develop quantitative, experimental knowledge.

Future historians may hardly notice that it took another three centuries before the scientific method was naturalized in China. What they might judge important, however, would be the success of the modernization programs of China and the humanization of Western science and technology.

Returning from the future to the past, a question that was often asked in this book--Why was natural science born in Europe?--may be rephrased: Why was it born in Italy?

Science arose in the cities: Padua, Venice, Florence, Rome, Bologna. I do not think that Castello di Gargonza, the location of our conference, had a large role in the scientific revolution, although by rights it should have: the Tuscan countryside around it is beautiful, the summer weather is balmy, and the wine is always good.

Perhaps the credit for bringing about early modern science should not go primarily to a geographic location or even to a particular society. It should go, instead, to the remarkable capacity of the human mind to refuse to take the world as it is and, by mixing the memories of the past with images of the future, to create new realities.

J. T. F.


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