Anaximander, or, The Birth of Scientific Thought
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Translated from the Italian by Matteo Smerlak
Anaximander, the Greek philosopher of Miletus in Ionia (c. 610 BCE to 546 BCE), was the first person known to have understood that the Earth was floating in space. He tried to explain the nature of the world by then accepted scientific principles rather than by the use of myth or religion. Anaximander taught Pythagoras, wrote one of the first books on nature, and was portrayed by Raphael in The School of Athens. He was one of the most extraordinary thinkers and imaginative scientists who ever lived. Yet today, few even know his name. The reason for this present lack of fame may be the divergence, in modern times, of the humanities and science.
Carlo Rovelli discusses Anaximander’s impressive legacy in the fields of physics, cosmology, geography, biology, and even meteorology. He concentrates, however, on the ways in which this revolutionary philosopher began the process of rethinking our preconceived image of the world and started a truly scientific way of thinking. Rovelli’s work is thus not just a study of the history of ideas but also, using the theories and works of Anaximander, a reflection on the evolution of scientific knowledge.
In clear and accessible writing, Rovelli carefully analyzes Anaximander’s theories in both their historical and philosophical contexts. He charts the progression of this scientific revolution and explains why Anaximander’s theories are still an important part of our comprehension of the world. As a physicist and cosmologist, Rovelli shows how Anaximander’s scientific discoveries and theories were decisive influences on the history of science.
Carlo Rovelli : Carlo Rovelli is an Italian physicist and cosmologist. He is currently a professor at the Center for Theoretical Physics of the Université de la Méditerranée of Marseille, France, and Affiliated Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is well known for his work in the field of quantum gravity. In 1995, he received the International Xanthopoulos Award for his contributions to theoretical physics. In 2009 he obtained the first Community Prize of the FQXi contest on the “nature of time.” He is a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France, member of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences and Honorary Professor of the Beijing Normal University in China. He is the author of Quantum Gravity (Cambridge University Press, 2007).