The Sleepwalkers : A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe, Paperback Book

The Sleepwalkers : A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


A thought-provoking account of the scientific achievements and lives of cosmologists from Babylonians to Newton.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 624 pages, illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of ideas
  • ISBN: 9780140192469

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It's a really good book about the history of scientific discovery, focusing on the ancient Greeks, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Highlights: Greek scientists had worked out a lot of stuff, but Plato and Aristotle sort of squashed that line of inquiry. Copernicus was possibly the most boring famous person in history, and generally seemed like a slacker. Also, we probably credit him with the beginnings of modern astronomy not because he was right about the Sun, but because his book was so unreadable that no one could figure out how wrong he was about the details. Kepler was a superstar, working out the tides, figuring out how telescopes worked, and realizing that planets travel in that most obscure and debased shape, the ellipse. He also had no idea what he'd be remembered for, and he was mostly interested in his totally wrong mystical ideas. He developed the inverse square relationship for optics, and rightly applied it to gravity, but then he totally forgot about it!?. Galileo was a big old douche canoe, and most of the myths about him are completely wrong. He was also wrong in his reasons as to why the earth moved around the sun, and wasted 25 years of his life on it. It was only after the Inquisition put him in his place that he did all his good work.Koestler is possibly too lenient on the Catholic church throughout, but not egregiously so. There are a lot of eye openers and his writing is usually vivid and dynamic. I have a feeling that current historical scholarship could add a lot of detail and nuance to his story, but as it stands it's quite good.4 stars oc

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