The Life of Science: Essays in the History of Civilization

The Life of Science: Essays in the History of Civilization

The Life of Science: Essays in the History of Civilization

The Life of Science: Essays in the History of Civilization

Excerpt

The life of science is a challenging title because science is alive, that is if any human activity can be said to be alive, and, like a living organism, science presents puzzles and problems to those who would exploit or domesticate it. To understand science or to evaluate its impact on our lives, we shall have to know something about how it came to be as it is and what it has been in the past. And no one can give us this knowledge quite so well as the author of the essays in this small book. Ever since the first world war, George Sarton has been a distinguished leader in the discipline known as the history of science. He has been pre-eminent among those who have introduced science to the scholars and scholarship to the scientists. But over and beyond this, he has succeeded in bringing the fascinating story of science to those who are neither professional scholars nor professional scientists. His labors have been primarily labors of the study, but his findings have broad implications and, now that we are so conscious of what science is doing to our way of life -- to our ancient convictions and to our future well-being -- they have acquired a certain urgency.

Ever since the Renaissance science has been growing exponentially, and today it is speeding along into the unknown faster than it has ever traveled before. New discoveries are altering our daily lives. Our outlook on the universe at large is being changed drastically, more drastically perhaps than we sometimes wish. But on the whole and with some reservations, we rather like science. We are certainly becoming more and more dependent on the products that science gives us. Materially, we are better off than any human generation has ever been, and the luxuries of earlier years have become our necessities. By our modern standards of convenience and comfort, the kings who reigned in the Middle Ages were underprivileged, and yet, in spite of its gifts, we are not entirely happy . . .

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