KOESTLER SLEEPWALKERS PDF

There are four main sections, respectively devoted to the classical world-view i. In the first section, I had not appreciated to what extent scientific progress can go backwards as well as forwards. Koestler describes the Pythagorean school - like Penrose, a modern disciple, he considers Pythagoras one of the most important figures in all world history - and shows how they built up a strikingly modern version of astronomy between the 6th and 3rd centuries B. Among other triumphs, they correctly deduced that the Earth was round and rotates, and were able to obtain good estimates for its radius, the distance to the Moon, and even the distance to the Sun.

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There are four main sections, respectively devoted to the classical world-view i. In the first section, I had not appreciated to what extent scientific progress can go backwards as well as forwards.

Koestler describes the Pythagorean school - like Penrose, a modern disciple, he considers Pythagoras one of the most important figures in all world history - and shows how they built up a strikingly modern version of astronomy between the 6th and 3rd centuries B.

Among other triumphs, they correctly deduced that the Earth was round and rotates, and were able to obtain good estimates for its radius, the distance to the Moon, and even the distance to the Sun. Aristarchus, the last major figure in this line of scientists, developed a plausible heliocentric theory and was greatly respected for centuries after his death. But then Plato and Aristotle severed the link between theory and observation and reverted to a system which placed the Earth back in the middle of the universe, with everything else rotating around it on an increasingly complex system of crystal spheres; this new geocentric theory received its final incarnation in the work of Ptolemy, in the second century A.

After the fall of Roman civilization, even this was lost, and by the sixth century A. It was interesting to see how it took several hundred more years to rediscover Ptolemaic astronomy, which was then treated almost literally as Gospel truth.

Koestler makes fun of the medieval mind-set, but I wondered what would happen if our own civilization collapsed and science reverted to a much more primitive stage. The detailed account of Copernicus was also illuminating, though here, again, I thought Koestler was a little unfair.

He paints Copernicus as a timid nerd who was unable to free himself from the Ptolemaic model and strike out in a genuinely new direction, removing the cycles and epicycles altogether.

His theory was quite good; it agreed with the observations to within 8 minutes of arc, which would have satisfied most people. But Kepler felt he could do better, junked the solution, and spent several more years messing with the data until he derived his First and Second Laws. But the most surprising part was the chapter on Galileo, which differed from the familiar account to such a large extent that I could hardly believe my eyes.

The disagreement with the Church is usually portrayed as simply being about the question of whether the Earth went round the Sun or vice versa, with Galileo clearly being the good guy. Koestler points out a host of perplexing divergences from the myth. The contrast was not against the traditional Ptolemaic system everything goes round the Earth , but against the much more sophisticated system proposed by Tycho Brahe the Sun and the Moon go round the Earth, all the other planets go round the Sun.

And worst, Galileo had in fact no evidence at all to support the Copernican system against the Tychonian! Well, clearly I must check this with the primary sources, which I am ashamed to say I have not read. He puts in more detail than he needs to, sometimes for no obvious reason, and it feels too long. I found most of his digressions into philosophy unconvincing.

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

Life[ edit ] [Koestler] began his education in the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire , at an experimental kindergarten in Budapest. His mother was briefly a patient of Sigmund Freud. In interwar Vienna he wound up as the personal secretary of Vladimir Jabotinsky , one of the early leaders of the Zionist movement. Fighting in the Spanish Civil War , he met W. Afraid of being caught by the Gestapo while fleeing France, he borrowed suicide pills from Walter Benjamin.

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