God's Philosophers: How the medieval world laid the foundations of modern science

Author(s): James Hannam


The adjective 'medieval' is now a synonym for superstition and ignorance. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. In "God's Philosophers", James Hannam traces the neglected roots of modern science in the medieval world. He debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth was flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere. Contrary to common belief, the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science, nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution. No Pope tried to ban human dissection or the number zero. On the contrary, as Hannam reveals, the Middle Ages gave rise to staggering achievements in both science and technology: for instance, spectacles and the mechanical clock were both invented in thirteenth-century Europe. Ideas from the Far East, like printing, gunpowder and the compass, were taken further by Europeans than the Chinese had imagined possible. The compass helped Columbus to discover the New World in 1492 while printing allowed an incredible 20 million books to be produced in the first 50 years after Gutenberg published his Bible in 1455.


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'A spirited jaunt through centuries of scientific development ... captures the wonder of the medieval world: its inspirational curiosity and its engaging strangeness.' Sunday Times 'This book contains much valuable material summarised with commendable no-nonsense clarity - James Hannam has done a fine job of knocking down an old caricature.' Sunday Telegraph 'Hannam, the liveliest of guides, makes enjoyable reading out of some seriously dusty history and difficult ideas.' Scotsman 'Here, in short, is a readable book, aimed at an intelligent but ignorant layman. You'll enjoy it.' Daniel Hannan MEP, Daily Telegraph 'A very useful general survey of a difficult topic, and a robust defence of an unfairly maligned age.' Spectator

James Hannam is a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge where he studied physics and then gained a PhD in the history of science. He lives in Kent with his wife and two children.

General Fields

  • : 9781848311503
  • : Icon Books Ltd
  • : Icon Books Ltd
  • : May 2010
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 448
  • : James Hannam
  • : Paperback