The Scientific Achievement of the Middle Ages

The Scientific Achievement of the Middle Ages

The Scientific Achievement of the Middle Ages

The Scientific Achievement of the Middle Ages

Synopsis

Here presented for the first time in English are the law codes of the Lombard kings who ruled Italy from the sixth to the eighth centuries. The documents afford unparalleled insight into the structure and values of Germanic society.

Excerpt

Men have tried an interesting variety of ways of dealing with the perceived or "natural" world in which they find themselves. They have imagined it as governed by hostile or benevolent whimsical forces, which they have tried to bribe or propitiate. They have explained it in terms of elaborate mythologies. They have tried to plumb its mysteries by interpreting flights of birds, innards of beasts, positions of the stars, or delirious mutterings of divinely inspired persons. They have tried to control it through the arts of magic and make it serve man's needs. Or, every now and then, they have sought to understand it according to the categories of human reason. It is such a rationally organized body of knowledge about the natural world which today is called science.

Science, as an organized body of thought, is dependent for its form on the culture in which it develops. Assumptions about nature, the world view and the value system all play a part in making up science, but they simply define the general directions which science may take. It is impossible to explain entirely how science is formed, or even why at certain periods, such as the Middle Ages, it has prevailed over less rational methods of thought.

This book is an attempt to provide an accurate sampling of medieval scientific thought in the context of a historical narrative, as well as a variety of evaluations of medieval science by modern scholars of many different points of view. It has been my aim to present as many actual medieval works as possible, but the diffuse and highly technical nature of some of these has often made it preferable to use competent summaries or paraphrases by leading modern scholars.

The field of medieval science is so vast that any attempt to be comprehensive in a book of this type was clearly out of the question. The selection is to some extent arbitrary and has been determined largely by my own knowledge and interests. It is also true that I have omitted those areas of scientific activity, such as medicine and biology, in which the medieval achievement was less notable. I hope that the book nevertheless accomplishes its purpose of . . .

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