by James Poskett Horizons: A Global History of Science is interested in the role played in scientific discovery by non-white, non-European people (mainly men….). The book begins with Aztec and Inca knowledge, particularly of natural history, medicine, and astronomy. Early modern European travels made it so clear that Aristotle and Plato had not in fact known all that they helped overthrow scholasticism. The book covers the following centuries but also, centrally, through space. People outside of Northwest Europe (and later North America) knew things.
I was particularly interested in the section on non-Linnean classifications in Africa and Asia (being a classification nerd); and also those on the impact of Einstein’s theories on confidence in measurement (being also a measurement nerd). And another thought – not particularly made by the author, whose concern is to acknowledge the previously overlooked contributions of people around the world – that has left me is the role of people bringing together disparate bodies of knowledge into a new vision of the world. After all, Newton recognized the shoulders on which he stood; but a different metaphor might be that he shook off the kaleidoscope and created a new pattern of vision.
I loved this book, I learned a lot. I must say it was marred slightly for me by the continual repetition of the point about the need to recognize non-European contributions – the material makes the case so effective on its own that further polemic is unnecessary. But this is of course an important point, and the book is a nice introduction to some of the sources of knowledge from other parts of the world.