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Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya Hardcover – Oct 22 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Oct. 22 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684837188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684837185
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #679,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Did Nicolas Copernicus steal his notion that the earth orbited the sun from an Islamic astronomer who lived three centuries earlier? "The jury is still out," writes Dick Teresi, whose intriguing survey of the non-Western roots of modern science offers several worthy arguments that Copernicus in fact ripped off Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. Common belief is that Westerners have been the mainspring of most scientific and technical achievement, but in Lost Discoveries Teresi shows that other cultures had arrived at much of the same knowledge at earlier dates. The Babylonians were using the Pythagorean theorem at least 15 centuries before Pythagoras drew his first triangle, and in A.D. 200 a Chinese mathematician calculated an incredibly accurate value for pi. The Mayans and other Mesoamericans were outstanding sky watchers and stargazers. The greatest advances occurred in math and astronomy, though Teresi also devotes chapters to physics, geology, chemistry, technology, and even cosmology. Sometimes he is a bit overeager to ascribe great thoughts to long-dead people (he casually suggests that "many ancient cultures had inklings of quantum theory"), but on the whole his book is a reliable and fascinating guide to the unexplored field of multicultural science. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Science journalist Teresi (coauthor of The God Particle) has combed the literature to catalogue the scientific advances made by early non-Western societies and to determine their impact on Western science. His work spans millennia and encompasses the full extent of the globe. He points out, for example, that five millennia ago the Sumerians concluded that the earth was round. He also provides information on cultures of the Middle East, India, China, Africa and Oceania, as well as a host of New World cultures, predominately those of Mesoamerica. Throughout, readers learn that scientific knowledge of various sorts in diverse forms has been a part of all cultures. In chapters on mathematics, astronomy, cosmology, physics, geology, chemistry and technology, Teresi makes a convincing argument that Western science has often been indebted to advances made elsewhere (mineralogy was studied in Africa as early as 5000 B.C.). Teresi is at his strongest in the section on mathematics, where he discusses the evolution of Arabic numerals from the ancient Indians and the earliest conceptualizations of zero and infinity. Much less compelling are his assertions that early societies foreshadowed the ideas of quantum mechanics. Although a bit uneven, Teresi offers a great deal of fascinating material largely ignored by many histories of science.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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THE most important scientific achievement in Western history is commonly ascribed to Nicolaus Copernicus, who on his deathbed published Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Norman J. Levitt on Sept. 14 2003
Format: Hardcover
teachers and librarians deserve to be forewarned that this book provides hard evidence that complaints about "political correctness" are not mere right-wing fantasy. Teresi's understanding of mathematics and science is, despite apparent credentials, fatally shallow and distorted. His willingness to concoct historically insupportable myths that are pleasing to his political sensibilities is obvious on every page. His eagerness to insinuate himself into the good graces of the supposed educators who incessantly preach the virtues of "multiculturalism" and the vices of "eurocentrism" is palpable and pervasive. The book is, in short, a stew of junk science and fake history. But in these peculiar times, it will probably sell very briskly to certain people who mean well but think badly.
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By Ric Warner on Jan. 29 2005
Format: Paperback
The re-discovery of the truth
This book is really a digest about the "THE ANCIENT ROOTS OF MODERN SCIENCE" since it gives synopsis of events with timelines of some Europeans and non-Europeans. It is the first book I read that focuses and attempts to highlight that there was an 'earlier civilization' prior to these "Modern Times".
Overall, it was a challenging book to read and it reminded me of the first time I took up Physics in university...daunting, intriguing and an excellent substitute for caffeine. I really enjoy reading Mathematics, Astronomy and Technology sections of the book. I was disappointed with the attempt in correlating the 'Ancients' curiosity in the Physics and Chemistry sections, I did not get it and I will not since I will not revisit that section. I was totally lost with the whole GEOLOGY bit and it best left as it is. The Mathematics, Astronomy and Technology sections were fantastic. Some areas I will revisit again and definitely use as a reference.
My best section was "Mathematics: The Language of Science" since it was wonderful reading and working my way through-it. I was around my desk, dinning table and coffee table trying out the 'little tricks'; which made me smile in the wee hours of the morning. I recall my mother using some of these tricks when she "did her arithmetic in her head" and friends who dazzle co-workers and cashiers with multiplications/additions of large numbers quicker than one enter them in a calculator.
Moreover, it is unfortunate that in these modern times one is lost when one cannot use an icons on a cash register or computer for simple arithmetic...it is a pity we have progressed so far around this ring of civilization.
I good book...I enjoy it and have recommended it to my friends and peers.
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Format: Hardcover
Any book that attempts to revise the prevalent Western/White/Post-Industrial/European/American(?) weltanschauung by uncovering and suggesting the HUGE influences of Eastern/Hindu/Islamic/Chinese thought and technology, is bound to get flack.
So far, Teresi's book has not got as much flack...which is quite heartwarming.
This being the first book of its kind that I have read outside India, I have nothing to compare it with. There are any number of indian publications under the title "Vedic Mathematics", that illustrate the sophistication possible with non-mainstream mathematics. I remember reading a totally original vedic proof of "Pythagoras'" theorem that was elegant, complete and just 3 lines long!
However, the author covers so much ground, and attempts to pack tons of information in a moderately sized book (around 300 pages), that at times the facts come faster than the mind can process. And although he's taken the easy way out by classifying chapters with broad categories, that has lead to a lot of repetition of facts within the book. A more efficient categorization would be by actual elements of discussion - say 1) Algebra 2) Civic Amenities 3)Metallurgy . This way a discourse of the general aspects of a civilization could have been relegated to appendices, and the bok itself would have more of a "tabular" comparison approach. But that's just me.
Kudos to Teresi for the amount of research done for this book. The references list a staggering number of sources, and so much about my own culture (Indian) was revealed to me through this book. Sadly, the text books in India are lame reincarnations and faded copies of books instituted during the British rule.
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Format: Hardcover
Any book that attempts to revise the prevalent Western/White/Post-Industrial/European/American(?) weltanschauung by suggesting HUGE influences from Eastern/Hindu/Islamic/Chinese thought and technology, is bound to get flak.
So far, Teresi's book has not got as much flak...which is quite heartwarming.
This being the first book of its kind that I have read outside India, I have nothing to compare it with. There are any number of indian publications under the title "Vedic Mathematics", that illustrate the sophistication possible with non-mainstream mathematics. I remember reading a totally original vedic proof of "Pythagoras'" theorem that was elegant, complete and just 3 lines long!
However, the author covers so much ground, and attempts to pack tons of information in a moderately sized book (around 300 pages), that at times the facts come faster than the mind can process. And although he's taken the easy way out by classifying chapters with broad categories, that has lead to a lot of repetition of facts within the book. A more efficient categorization would be by actual elements of discussion - say 1) Algebra 2) Civic Amenities 3)Metallurgy . This way a discourse of the general aspects of a civilization could have been relegated to appendices, and the bok itself would have more of a "tabular" comparison approach. But that's just me.
Kudos to Teresi for the amount of research done for this book. The references list a staggering number of sources, and so much about my own culture (Indian) was revealed to me through this book. Sadly, the text books in India are lame reincarnations and faded copies of books instituted during the British rule.
Read more ›
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