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Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 Hardcover – Oct 9 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 668 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept; 1 edition (Oct. 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006019247X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060192471
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #459,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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"Before human accomplishment could begin, we had first of all to become human." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Feb. 7 2004
Format: Hardcover
Read it and weep, social "scientists." This is another terrific text by Murray that thoughtfully and systematically supports one undeniable fact: Virtually every significant advance in civilization and technology is the product of those awful, mostly dead, European white guys. Along with "The Bell Curve," these texts beautifully refute those who continue to promote failed policies such as "affirmative action" and "diversity." Thanks to Murray and others, we have a record of what actually happened, regardless of the revisionists, the likes of Jesse Jackson, and university leftists.
Read it. Study it. Pass it along to your kids.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Oct. 21 2003
Format: Hardcover
Once a decade, Charles Murray drops a bombshell book on American intellectual life.
In 1984, it was his devastating assessment of welfare programs, "Losing Ground," which helped inspire the famous 1996 welfare reform act.
In 1994, Murray coauthored with the late Richard J. Herrnstein the enormous bestseller "The Bell Curve." It ignited controversy by arguing that IQ scores are one of the most overlooked tools for understanding how American society is structured.
Now, after a half-decade of work, Murray, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, is back with another massive book, 688 pages full of graphs and tables. "Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950" (HarperCollins, $29.95) is a fascinating attempt to rank the 4,000 most important artists and scientists in human history.
Murray meticulously measured how much attention the leading scholars in their fields pay to the top creators and discoverers. Reading "Human Accomplishment" is a little like browsing through the statistics-laden "Baseball Encyclopedia," except that instead of being about Ruth, Di Maggio, and Bonds, Murray's book is about Picasso, Darwin, and Edison.
Murray took some time to discuss "Human Accomplishment" with me.
Q. Who came out on top of big categories like Western Literature, Western Art, Western Philosophy, and Combined Sciences?
A. Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Aristotle, and Newton -- the people you'd expect.
In Western music, Mozart and Beethoven were in a dead heat, with Bach third. A rather vocal minority is upset about Bach not being on top. I'm not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Stallings on Dec 16 2003
Format: Hardcover
The other day Charles Murray said "Good morning." His Pavlovian critics typed for a month.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 23 2003
Format: Hardcover
What an excellent book. Charles Murray is a wonderfully clear and gripping writer, regardless of whether he is giving a brief overview of human advancement from 800 B.C. to the modern age or explaining the more tedious aspects of his method for sifting through the histories to find the essential artistic and scientific elite.
While the overwhelming majority of these are men, he takes feminist concerns seriously and goes to great lengths to present both social and biological explanations for the underrepresentation of women. He also discusses the acheivements of other cultures with fair-mindedness, pointing out where, when and in what way other civlizations surpassed our own while unflinchingly exploring the reasons behind the overwhelming dominance of Westerners in the arts and sciences from 1400 on. To accuse him, as some will, of chauvinism and ethnocentricism is grossly unfair, as any open-minded person who reads this book must concede.
Truly, this is an excellent and important work which lives up to its incredible ambition. Buy it now.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Viberg on April 15 2004
Format: Hardcover
Murray (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C.) offers a detailed survey of human excellence, from the time of Homer to the mid-20th century. He examines who these contributors were; which are most significant and why; how human accomplishment has been distributed and has shifted across the centuries, around the world, within Europe and the U.S.; what characterizes the great accomplishments; the roles of basic economic, political, and demographic factors; to what extent streams of accomplishment are self-reinforcing; what initiatives such streams; and prospects for future human accomplishments.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin on Jan. 28 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting attempt to document the historical trajectory of human creativity/accomplishment. Murray's reasonable approach is to use existing reference works to catalogue significant creative persons and accomplishments in the arts and sciences. In several fields, Murray selected a set of hopefully comprehensive sources and then identifies individuals mentioned in a majority of these works. Murray then derives measures of creative accomplishments, their rates over time, and their association with specific historical periods or cultures.
The success of Murray's attempt can be judged on three grounds; methodological, validity of conclusions, and novelty of valid conclusions. The first two criteria are obvious but it is the novelty of predictions that is the most important. The production of novel, unexpected and counterintuitive valid claims is the best measure of a new theory or approach.
If there is something wrong with Murray's datasets/lists, then the whole enterprise is suspect. Murray finds a high level of correlation among his sources. This is reassuring but doesn't exclude shared, systemic biases among his sources. Inspecting several lists discloses problems. In the biology list and the medicine list, there is substantial under-reporting of significant figures. The Biology list is biased also towards genetics, physiology, biochemistry, and early cell biology. While some evolutionary biologists are mentioned, there is little attention to many traditional areas of biology and newer areas such as Ecology. I suspect the same problem occurs with the lists for math and technology. Murray's list for Western philosophy includes several theologians but none after 1850, a significant omission.
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