The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution by John Gribbin - review by Blair Worden

Blair Worden

A Society Of Stages

The Fellowship: The Story of a Revolution


Allen Lane 336pp £20

If you like your history simple, and if you like it confident, John Gribbin is your man. To him the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century is a straightforward triumph of light over darkness. Before it, 'ideas about the universe' were 'mainly superstitious nonsense'. 'What passed for science' was 'the ancient lore of Aristotle', with its 'really bad' assumption that 'the truth about the world could be determined by pure thought'. 'Enshrined by centuries of tradition', Aristotlelianism was 'unsullied by anything as basic as an experiment'.

Gribbin's heroes are the moderns who, in routing the ancients, established the 'Big Idea' of 'the scientific method', which puts hypotheses to empirical tests. Much of his book consists of biographical essays on the leading champions of modernity. With the exception of Galileo they are English. There is William Gilbert,

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