Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Baby (Google eBook)

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Simon and Schuster, May 11, 2010 - Science - 464 pages
14 Reviews
Lost Discoveries, Dick Teresi's innovative history of science, explores the unheralded scientific breakthroughs from peoples of the ancient world -- Babylonians, Egyptians, Indians, Africans, New World and Oceanic tribes, among others -- and the non-European medieval world. They left an enormous heritage in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry, and technology.

The mathematical foundation of Western science is a gift from the Indians, Chinese, Arabs, Babylonians, and Maya. The ancient Egyptians developed the concept of the lowest common denominator, and they developed a fraction table that modern scholars estimate required 28,000 calculations to compile. The Babylonians developed the first written math and used a place-value number system. Our numerals, 0 through 9, were invented in ancient India; the Indians also boasted geometry, trigonometry, and a kind of calculus.

Planetary astronomy as well may have begun with the ancient Indians, who correctly identified the relative distances of the known planets from the sun, and knew the moon was nearer to the earth than the sun was. The Chinese observed, reported, dated, recorded, and interpreted eclipses between 1400 and 1200 b.c. Most of the names of our stars and constellations are Arabic. Arabs built the first observatories.

Five thousand years ago, the Sumerians said the earth was circular. In the sixth century, a Hindu astronomer taught that the daily rotation of the earth on its axis provided the rising and setting of the sun. Chinese and Arab scholars were the first to use fossils scientifically to trace earth's history.

Chinese alchemists realized that most physical substances were merely combinations of other substances, which could be mixed in different proportions. Islamic scholars are legendary for translating scientific texts of many languages into Arabic, a tradition that began with alchemical books. In the eleventh century, Avicenna of Persia divined that outward qualities of metals were of little value in classification, and he stressed internal structure, a notion anticipating Mendeleyev's periodic chart of elements.

Iron suspension bridges came from Kashmir, printing from India; papermaking was from China, Tibet, India, and Baghdad; movable type was invented by Pi Sheng in about 1041; the Quechuan Indians of Peru were the first to vulcanize rubber; Andean farmers were the first to freeze-dry potatoes. European explorers depended heavily on Indian and Filipino shipbuilders, and collected maps and sea charts from Javanese and Arab merchants.

The first comprehensive, authoritative, popularly written, multicultural history of science, Lost Discoveries fills a crucial gap in the history of science.
  

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Review: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya

User Review  - John Bruni - Goodreads

I just couldn't get into this book, but I don't think it's Teresi's fault. I don't think I'm smart enough to understand a lot of the things he discusses. It didn't help that he started out with a ... Read full review

Review: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya

User Review  - Esther - Goodreads

Perhaps I'm just an iconoclast, but I love the mess Teresi makes of the myth that science and math are essentially the province of the ancient Greeks and their heirs, the WASPS. Read full review

Contents

Recovered
1
Tke Language of Sconce
21
ASTRONOMY Sky WatcKers and More
89
COSMOLOGY TUOldTime Religion
157
Particles Voids and Fields
193
GEOLOGY Stones of EartK Itself
231
CHEMISTRY AlcKemy and Beyond
279
TECHNOLOGY MacKinesasaMeasureofMan
325
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Dick Teresi is the author or coauthor of several books about science and technology, including The God Particle. He is cofounder of Omni magazine and has written for Discover, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic Monthly, and is a frequent reviewer and essayist for The New York Times Book Review. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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