978-0-226-80840-6 / 9780226808406

The Architecture of Matter


Publisher:University Of Chicago Press



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About the book:

What is the world made of? This, one of the most basic questions in the scientific domain, has nagged at philosophers for thousands of years, long before science as we know it came along to provide verifiable answers. The Architecture of Matter, by historians Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, addresses the long, often tortured struggle to conceptualize and understand the world around us. Turning their attention to the transformation of ideas, rather than sequentially listing the names and dates of those who "got it right," the authors better capture the evolution of our modern notions of life, atoms, and fundamental forces.

Beginning with prehistory, they explore the knowledge required to produce crafts and crops before moving on to the ancient Greeks and their intellectual descendants. Following the ideas rather than the thinkers gives the impression of a centuries-long relay race; the stories are on a greater-than-human scale. Still, the authors never forget that each step of the race was taken by individual men and women, and they succeed in showing the reader how it was done in terms that are direct and compelling. Borrowing their style more from the humanities than their subjects, Toulmin and Goodfield find poetry in mechanics and invite us all to do the same. The Architecture of Matter is essential reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in the development of the microscopic sciences from the first flint-shaper to the latest in genetic engineering. --Rob Lightner

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