file 2 - Book notes: A Short History of
Scientific Ideas by Charles Singer.
This is a continuation of handwritten notes begun May 2022.
IV - The Failure of Inspiration
P.103 "under Stoicism we get either a type of exact but intellectually motiveless observation, or a rejection of all knowledge not of practical importance."
p.106 "VARO (116-27 B.C.) wrote and encyclopedia of the sciences... he distinguished nine such disciplines, namely grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music, medicine, and architecture. Of these the last two were not recognised by the later Latin writers..." I pause to consider that each of these 'disciplines' mean to me; one might not immediately consider medicine to be important per-se, if not on regular medication, or in that profession, but when employing the term more widely, such as under considerations of ones own Wellbeing, which I think is of great importance to conisder and employ daily, the discipline is vital.
"Astronomy" again. Who thinks about this daily unless of that interest? But perhaps we should be regularly, like that of a religion, imploy our minds to the bigger questions of where we are from, is there life out there, and, how does the universe work? Working our minds in this way can help put into perspective the many trivialities and the mudane we become obsessed with.
p.107 PLINY (A.D. 23-79) produced 'Natural History'. It was drawn from about 2,000 work - most of them now lost...Its erudite, travelled, and industrious author exhibits an interest in natural phenomena that is quite uncontrolled by scientific or critical standards. The main thought that runs through the book is that nature serves man. All things have their 'uses'..." although not only for exploitation as one might suppose (and can be seen done throughout the ages and by others) but as a source of admiration, and inspiration. However "This world of wonder is... effectively without a God and works by rule... Medical plants are treated [in this work] in greatest detail, and he holds that all plants have their own special medical powers."
p.108 SENECA (3 B.C.-A.D. 65) wrote 'Natural Questions'. "It deals chiefly with astronomy, meteorology, and physical geography."
p.111 "[Strabo (born c. 63 B.C.) rejects Thule, and disbelieves in any habitable land as far north as the Arctic Circle. Ireland, the most northerly of known territories, is 'barely habitable on account of the cold'. Southward, he considers the habitable world extends about 3,000 stadia beyond Meroe."
p.112 A survey superintended by the son-in-law of Augustus, VIPSANIUS AGRIPPA (died 12 B.C.) "was rendered possible by the fact that the Empire was well furnished with roads, marked with milestones. [The map of which having indications for the marching of armies.]
p.113 "under Agricola [pronounced Ag-rick-alla], the Roman fleet rounded Britain and proved it to be an island, discovering at the same time the Orcades (Orkney Islands) and coming in sight of 'Thule' (? Shetlands). Yet Tacitus, like Caesar and the elder Pliny, believes that Spain lies to the west of Britain. Like Strabo he described the Pyrenees as running north and south. He goes on to explain the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun - which he brings as far south as the north of Scotland - by telling us that 'the flat extremities of the Earth, casting a low shadow, do not throw the darkness up high, and the night does not reach to the sky and stars'. The statement impliies the view that the earth is a disk with flattened edges. This from a Roman gentleman who had access to the ideas of Aristotle, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and Aratothenes..."
p.114 "The original native medical system was that of a people of the lower culture and devoid of scientific ideas. Interwoven with ideas that trespass on the domain of religion, it possessed that multitude of 'specialist deities' characteristic of the Roman cults. Thus Fever had three tembles in Rome, and was supplicated as the goddess <i>Febris</i> and flatteringly addressed as 'Divine Fever', 'Holy Fever', 'Great Goddess Fever'...
"The entire external aspect of Roman medicine was gradually transformed by the advent of Greek science [although] the change hardly penetrated below the upper classes. [Sometimes I wonder if this is a front; such as royal familites or key players in the world secretly still employing such things as astrology in a serious manner.] "Thus many references in <i>City of God</i> by St. Augustus (354-430) show the ancient beliefs still current in the Italy of his day, After the fall of the Empire, they lingered among the barbaric peoples..." [This could also be suggested regarding such things that are outlawed amongst the masses by the elite, whilst they themselves still practice/believe in them. This can be especially considered when one wonders why is becomes such a both, say, to the church if someone believes in magic; if it's "not real" then why the concern?]
An interesting point about the Hippocratic Oath: "I will reckon him who taught me this Art as dear to me as those who bore me. I will look upon his offspring as my own brethren and will teach them this Art, if they would learn it, [u]without fee or stipulation[/u]... I will impart a knowledge of this art to my own sons, and to those of my teacher, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and an oath, according to the Law of Medicine, [u]but to none other[/u]." [my emphasis]. Talk about 'keeping it in the family'. That modern day medicine is accessible to all, especially her in the UK with our NHS, this oath seem to be referring to some other art... or perhaps it is! What if 'the medicine' we mere mortals of the lower class is not the thing those elites have access to, or are privy to. It's akin to a secret society.
p.115 ASCLEPIADES of Bithynia (died c.40 B.C.) "influenced deeply later medical thought, ridiculed, and perhaps we should add misunderstood, the Hippocratic attitude of relying on... 'the healing power of nature', which he regarded as a mere 'meditation on death;, and urged that active measures were needed for the press of cure."
p.115 cont. The "Roman medical curriculum [lacked] any practical study of anatomy [which, when we consider their] indifference to human life... considering their brutality to slaves... [and] the value - obvious to us - of anatomical knowledge for surgical practice [particularly] the organization of the military medical service of the Empire, it is highly significant that the knowledge of antiquity was thus allowed [as it was] to lapse." [It seems pecuiliar to me how our modern-day medical industry appears to exist to prolong the lifes of individuals, people who, seemingly in the grand scheme of things are "nothing". Why does the system care? I suggest perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps it's all a front, because I find it odd that that individuals fight to save the lives of others, when, for example, another creature is left dead at the side of the road after it has been struck by a vehicle. Why are we so important?
p.117 The use of the mosquito net was ridiculed as effeminate by [some] poets...
note 1: "There are scientific experiences in which the mind comes to rest with conviction, even when not repeated. [I believe this could be observed a lot with "Science & Covid" - revealing that sceintists are human and not only make mistakes, but, no matter how rational they believe they are or protray themselves as, or come across as, they have their biases like the rest of us.] Thus an astronomical prediction, involving exact and detailed calculation, if confirmed in an exact and detailed way, may carry conviction as to the soundness of its principle even though verified by but a single observation." [In the case of Covid, blanket approaches were employed, even when not relevant to an individual or potentially causing them more harm (in other ways) or at risk of other issues more serious to them.]
p.119 "Among the Greeks private surgeries were well known. Larger institutions were connected with the temples to Aesculapius, the god of healing, but there is no evidence of scientific medical treatment in these places. [It seems to me that addressing ones' god in a faithful manner, regarting an ailment or medical issue, can provide the body with the ability to heal - perhaps not "from the gods" but through what we can term the placebo effect. Even if medical treatment is employed, one is better off if they believe it is helping; conversely if you have your doubts (or a pesimist in general), you're at risk of being worse off.]
p.121 "...the true abacus... began as a board with a series of grooves in which pebbles or calculi would be moved up and down, hence the verb calculo and the modern use of 'calculate'. In its more developed form the abacus consisted of an upper row of short rods and a longer row of long rods..."
p.122 "It is interestning to note that Boethius divides mathematics into four sections, Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy, and that he is the first to describe these fout disciplines as the quadruvium ('four pathways').
The Romans helf that the art of surveying was at least as old as their city, and had been practiced from the first by the priests."
p.125 "Januarius was named from the god Janus, and Februarius, the last month, was the season of ritual purification (februare, 'to purify' or 'expiate')."
p.127 "From the fact that the longest day in Alexandria was 14 hours, in Italy 15, and in Britain 17, Pliny deduces that lands close to the Pole must have a 24-hours' day in the summer and a 24-hours' night in winter. [COPY PARAGRAPH]
p.128 [COPY passages regarding Astrology.]
p.129 "With the spread of Christianity and disa[[earance of the Stoic philosophy, astrology passed into the background, to return with the Arabian revival and the rise of the universities in the thirteenth century..."
p.130 "After death, so Pliny would have us believe, man is as he was before he was born - and this he tell us as he plunges into his magic-ridden pages!"
p.132 [COPY PARAGRAPH]
p.133 "Broadly speaking, the Neoplatonist would have said that the universe had been made for Man who is the essential reality; the Stoic that Man had been made for the universe. The Neoplatonic view was victorious."
p.134 "[The Platonic] Idea is in the end identifiable with form. Matter destitute of form or idea, is evil; with form it is at best neutral. It must be the soul's aspiration to free itself from such dangers. Then and only then can it hope for ecstatic union with the Divine."
"Christianity with its spread absorbed, with the masses, some of their superstitions, their magic, their theurgy."
Chapter V - The Failure of Knowledge
p.137 [COPY PARA]
p. 139 "By the sixth and seventh centuries the Church had come to some sort of terms with astrology... St. Isidor regards astrology as, in part at least, a legitimate science. He distinguishes, however, between natural and superstitious astrology. The latter is 'the science practiced by the mathematici who read prophecies in the heavens, and place the twelve constellations (of the Zodiac) as rulers over members of man's body and soul, and predict the nativities and dispositions of men by the courses of the stars.' Neverthe less, St. Isidore accepts many of the conclusions of astrology. He advises physicians to study it, and he ascribed to the moon an influence over plant and animal life and control over the humours of man, while he accepts without question the influence of the Dog Star and of the comets." [Dog Days]
p.141 "The rise of the Abbasid Caliphs (from 750) inaugurated the epoch of greatest power, spendour, and prosperity of Islamic rule, but Islamic thought was still in the absorptive period."
p.143 "It was at Bagdad that most of the Aristotelian writings were first made accessible in Arabic, together with works on botany, mineralogy, and merchanics, as well as many Greek alchemical works... It seems likely that many alchemical methods were of Persian and some perhaps of Chinese origin..."
p.144 "It is a misfortune that at Alexandra, where alchemy specially flourished, mystical tendencies, largely of Neoplatonic origin, overlaid the experimental factor and thus tended to superstitious practice, passing into fraud.
Jabir (c. 760-c. 815) is the earliest alchemical writer in Arabic of whom we hear... [He] came from SOuth Arabia, belonged to the mystical brotherhood of the Sufis whose doctrines influenced the famous sect of the Assassins, became a friend of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809) of The Thousand and One Nights... Recent scholarship has begun to distinguish a very few works of Jabir from many picturesque fables and a huge mass of occult works bearing his name.
Jabir had probably some knowledge of Greek and was well placed for obtaining alchemical information from the shrinking Bysantine Empire. He had a Pythagorean belief in numbers as real things and attached significance to the well-known magic square of the nine digits, which has been a source of wonder for centuries. [9 digits; any [row or] column adds to 15.]
[Jabir] believed that numbers correspond to qualities or things and have specific relation to letters, to substances, and to the powers that change them all." [Author calls this "chaos of fruitless ideas] but suggests that "through errors often aid in tracing scientific and technical influences and stimulate further inquiry." and as far as alchemical works such as Jabir's [i.e. Book of Properties] contain genuine chemical knowledge."
p.147 Crude sodium carbonate occurs native in Egypt. Potashes = kali or al-kali (Arabic - calcinated wood ashes), the source of both our word alkali.
p.159 "Astrolabe... [have] remained popular and [are] still in use for determining times of rituals."
p.150 "The astrolabe was relatively seldom used for actual observation but mainly for calculation and doubtless often to impress the clients of astrologers. Nevertheless, it was the most complex astronomical device available as a means of avoising tedious routine calcluations of spherical trigonometry such as always occur in astronomical and astrological work."
p.154 "In the twelfth century a great change came over Islamic thought. Under the influence of the religious teacher Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111), tolerance gave place to persecution of studies thought to 'lead to loss of belief in the Creator and the origin of the world'. Outstanding and independent works become rarer. Among the scientific writers an increasing proportion of Jews is to be observed, because they were relatively free from such restraints..."
p.155 "[MAIMONIDES' (1135-1204)] cosmological views influenced St. Thomas Aquinas, and through him, the whole thought of Catholic Europe."
p.156-7 [COPY section about Occident science and learning.]
p.159 "Before about 1200 Moslem learning was better organized, more original, more vital that Byzantine."
p.161 [COPY Arabic star names and other terms that have passed into common language.]
p.162 "ROBERT OF CHESTER (c. 1110- c. 1160)... was the first to translate the Koran (1143). Among his scientific renderings was the first alchemical text to appear in Latin (1144)... a pseudo-Aristotelian treatise which greatly influenced Roger Bacon, as well as various astronomical and astrological works."
p.164 "[MICHAEL THE SCOTT's (c. 1175-c. 1235)] version of Alpetragius contained the first attack ontraditional astronomy... His version of Aristotelian biology from the Arabic gave Arisotle's own scientific observations for the first time to the West. His work on astrology was the first major treatise on the subject accessible in Latin. [He] had Jewish and Moslem help and was long associate with that arch-enemy of the papacy, Frederick II. Thus in the popular imagination his name became associated with black magic. This was the fate of other translators from the Arabic..." [COPY POEM]
p.165 "Aristotle conceived the stars as beings whose nature and substance were purer and nobler than that of aught in the spheres below. This was a point of departure from which the influence of the heavenly bodies over human destines might be developed... The fixed stars, moving regularily in a circle, controlled the ordered course of nature, the events that proceeded in recurring, manifest, and unalterable rounds, such as winter and summer, night and day, growth and decay. The planets, on the other hand, erratic or at least errant in their movements, governed the more variable and less easily ascertainable events in the world around and within us..."
p.167 [COPY mystical writers and the reading into things of spiritual meaning.]
p.169 [COPY PARA "Men seek out the hidden powers of nature..."]
p.170 "ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1206-80)... was among the very few medieval writers who were real observers of nature."
p.173 "[ARNALD OF VILLANOVA (c. 1240-1311)] was not only the earliest modern exponent of the Hippocratic method of observing and carefully recording actual cases of disease, but he also influenced alchemy. That study was effectively of Arabic origin so far as the Western world is concerned... It begins in 1144 with the translation into Latin by Rober of Chester... of an alchemical work ostensibly by MORIENUS ROMANUS, supposedly a contemporary Christian of Jerusalem who derived it from an earlier Arabic source. Like other medieval studies, alchemy became linked with astrology. Thus the 'seven metals' were each controlled or influenced by one of the 'seven planets' much in the same was as were the organs of the human body... [Arnald] had direct access to both Arabic and Hebrew and had personal relations with both Moslems and Jews.
Astronomy - which cannot at this stage be distinguished from astrology - was certainly the main scientific interest of the scholastic age. The practical results of scholastic astronomical activity are, however, pitifully meagre. Western knowledge of astronomy was largely based on the activity of King ALFONSO THE WISE (1223-84) of Castile. He collected at Toledo a considerable body of scholars, mostly Jews, who calculated a set of astronomical tables (1252). The Alfonsine tables were spread rapidly through Europe..."
p.175 [There is a] common misunderstanding that in the Middle Ages men believed that the earth was flat..."
p.185 "Alchemy presents a difficulty in a history of science. The word has come to suggest magic, obscurantism, futile symbolis, and fraud. Most of this is just, but the words alchemy and chemistry are from the same root, whose separate meanings were not clarified till the Middle Ages had closed. Many alchemical works have scientific elements. Moreover the alchemists contrubuted certain processes and apparatus. They claimed to use twelve processes: Calcination, Congelation, Fixation, Solution, Digestion, Distillation, Sublimation, Separation, Ceration, Fermentation, Multiplication, and Projections. All these are easily intelligible, except perhaps the last [which] is presentation of gold in the last stage of the process."
p.187 "We think now of technology as a product of scientific knowledge and the press treats it as science itself. Perhaps the two may now be inseperable. Historically, however, systematic observation and experiment were made possible by technology..."
VI - REVIVAL OF LEARNING
p.189 "It was... the men of science, adherents of the new 'Experimental Way', who swept away the whole medieval approach... Their triumph was not fully apparent till the eighteenth century. There are backward centres where it is not complete even now."
PETER OF ABANO (1250-1381)... earned a repuataion as a magician. [His] best-known work... the Concilator."
p.199 "Aureolus Philippus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, more compendiously known as PARACELSUS (1493-1541)... was a person of violent, boastful, and repellent temper, whose iconoclasm, garrulous and often incoherent though it was, probably did something to deter men from the worship of the old idols. His symbolic act of burning the works both of the Greek Galen and of the Arab Avicenna, as an introduction to [a] lecture course, was meant to typify the position of the independent, investigator."
'Nature' included for him the influence of the stars upon the lives of men and many other relationships then generally credited and now universally discredited."
p.212 "The Pole, NICOLAS COPERNICUS (1473-1543)... was a student rather than an observer, and he continued to attend university courses until over thirty years of age... He [gave] attention to classics, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, law, and theology. It was in Italy that he first discussed the Pythadorean theory with which his name has become associated. [He] is said to have had skill in painting which suggests that type of visualizing imagination frequently associated with scientific power. He was not at all active as a practical astronomy. He had, it is true, taken a few observations of eclipses and oppositions of planets, but for the most part his results were obtained in the study... [He] was induced to seek a new theory of the heavenly bodies by finding that mathematicians differed among themselves on this subject. He had considered the various motions of the heavenly bodies according to the old system, and concluded that some essential factor had been missed. He found his hint in the traditions that had survived of the thought of Philolaus the Pythagorian and of Aristarchus.
p.214 ...[He] reduced the number of circles demanded to explain celestial movements [but] still invoked no less than thirty-four.
"Religion was the main interest of the day... [which] is, by its nature, conservative, and any scientific advance of the first magnitude disturbs those who profess it... [COPY]
p.215 "...astrology was based on the doctrine that the outer spheres of the universe influenced the innter. [COPY] ...Remove the earth from her central position among the spheres and the whole astrological system becomes unworkable."
VII - THE INSURGENT CENTURY (1600-1700)
p.218 "In 1583 there came to London GIORDANO BRUNO (1547-1600)... a renegade monk... his restless and turbulent spirit had combined with an aloofness from the affairs of men to make him unwelcome. Throughout his life he showed a lofty indifference to common sense that cannot fail to command our resepct - at a distance. He made a precarious livlihood by lecturing on a barren logical system which he had partly invented..."
End of file 2 - Last updated: 08/06/22