Antiquity and Middle Ages

JAMES EVANS, J. LENNART BERGGREN (eds.),
Geminos’s Introduction to the Phenome-
na: A Translation and Study of a Helleni-
stic Survey of Astronomy. Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2006.
XVIII+325 pp., ISBN 0-691-12339-X.
L’opera del poligrafo e filosofo di matrice
stoica Gemino (I secolo a.C.) fu un punto
nodale nello sviluppo della trattatistica eru-
dita di argomento tecnico. Il suo trattato sto-
rico-critico sui fondamenti della matematica
fu saccheggiato da tutti i commentatori tar-
do-antichi; Proclo ne fece larghissimo uso
nel proprio commento al I libro degli Ele-
menti. Quest’opera di Gemino non ci e` per-
venuta, come del resto la quasi totalita` del-
la sua prevedibilmente ampia produzione.
Unica superstite e` una trattazione elementa-
re di argomento astronomico, forse concepi-
ta a scopi didattici: l’Introduzione ai Fenome-
ni. Rispetto ad altre esposizioni dello stesso
genere, quella di Gemino e` la piu` tecnica e
la meno compromessa dal punto di vista filo-
sofico; lo stile e` secco e preciso, se pur arric-
chito qua e la` da citazioni letterarie, le frasi
brevi e dirette, la sintassi lineare: un’eccezio-
ne nel panorama antico dei trattati astrono-
mici (tutti d’altronde ben posteriori), carat-
terizzati da una ridondanza sintattica che
culmina nei periodi fluviali dell’Almagesto
di Tolomeo. La data di Gemino rende la
sua Introduzione una fonte insostituibile
per l’astronomia pre-tolemaica, in un perio-
do in cui l’impatto di dati e modelli di prove-
nienza babilonese cambio` i connotati dell’a-
stronomia greca. Tra gli argomenti per cui
l’Introduzione e` una fonte primaria figurano
l’esposizione della teoria lunare babilonese,
l’uso di schemi teorici basati su progressioni
aritmetiche per la determinazione della lun-
ghezza di giorno e notte, i cicli lunisolari di 8
e 19 anni e la struttura delle costellazioni se-
condo Ipparco. L’argomentazione di Gemi-
no e` informata da un razionalismo illumina-
to di rigore non comune: basti leggere la
confutazione dell’opinione che variazioni
del tempo atmosferico siano causate da leva-
te e tramonti eliaci delle stelle, e non sempli-
cemente indicate da questi come segni. L’In-
troduzione ha una struttura semplice. Dopo
alcune generalita` concernenti la sfera celeste
e la sua rappresentazione geometrica, Gemi-
no espone le basi teoriche atte a spiegare fe-
nomeni come la lunghezza variabile di giorni
e notti, i tempi di levata dei dodici segni, la
lunghezza dei mesi, le fasi della luna, le sue
eclissi e quelle di sole, il movimento dei pia-
neti e delle stelle fisse. L’opera prosegue con
considerazioni sulle differenti zone geografi-
che della terra e sui segni metereologici rica-
vabili dal moto delle stelle. L’ultimo capitolo
presenta un ciclo lunare utile per la predizio-
ne di eclissi. Di particolare interesse la collo-
cazione, a mo’ di appendice al trattato, di un
parapegma, cioe` un almanacco contenente
previsioni di fenomeni atmosferici su basi
calendariali e astronomiche.
Il libro di Evans e Berggren rende un ma-
gnifico servizio sia al lettore competente che
al neofita. Un’amplissima introduzione pre-
senta l’autore e la sua produzione (esem-
plare la discussione della datazione), inse-
rendoli nel contesto tecnico-filosofico del
periodo, per passare poi ad un’esposizione
dei principali prerequisiti richiesti per la
comprensione dell’Introduzione. La tradu-
zione, ammirevole per aderenza allo stile
dell’autore, precisione tecnica e chiarezza,
e` corredata di lunghe note, che chiariscono
BOOK REVIEWS
10
tutti i dettagli tecnici. Seguono le traduzioni
commentate dei due frammenti filosofici
piu` importanti di Gemino, concernenti il
primo la classificazione delle scienze mate-
matiche, il secondo i rapporti tra astrono-
mia e fisica. Quattro appendici contengono
rispettivamente note testuali, che offrono
importanti correzioni al testo, un’analisi
del parapegma di Gemino, un glossario di
termini tecnici e un indice delle autorita`
menzionate nell’Introduzione. Decine di fi-
gure, diagrammi (comprese molte riprodu-
zioni da manoscritti) e tavole accompagna-
no il testo. Un’ampia bibliografia e un
indice alquanto dettagliato completano il
volume. Berggren e Evans hanno cura di
spiegare ogni possibile dettaglio tecnico
nei termini piu` elementari possibili, guidan-
do il lettore alla consultazione del libro e
quasi scusandosi quando argomenti di una
certa difficolta` risultano inevitabili; viene
fatto talvolta ricorso a teorie astronomiche
moderne per spiegare nozioni o fenomeni,
ma questo non da` mai luogo ad anacroni-
smi. Le concezioni astronomiche esposte
da Gemino, a volte sorprendenti per il letto-
re moderno o anche solo per chi conosce
l’astronomia tolemaica, sono esposte con
chiarezza esemplare. Al lettore viene insom-
ma offerta una vera e propria introduzione
all’astronomia del periodo compreso tra Ip-
parco e Tolomeo.
Il volume e` assai ben curato ed ha un
prezzo accessibile, in linea con la politica
editoriale assennata della casa editrice. Mi-
steriosamente, gli sporadici errori di stampa
si addensano nei riferimenti bibliografici.
FABIO ACERBI
JEAN A. GIVENS, KAREN M. REEDS, ALAIN
TOUWAIDE (eds.), Visualizing Medieval
Medicine and Natural History, 1200-
1550. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. XX+
278 pp., ISBN 0-7546-5296-3.
Few volumes with contributions on to-
pics that belong to the fields of different
disciplines – here art history, natural his-
tory, and medicine – show almost consistent
high quality and signs of a real intellectual
exchange between the authors. That is the
case here, and the credit should go espe-
cially to the three editors. The excellent
and pleasantly short introduction makes
clear that an ecumenical approach has been
followed with respect to the various sub-
jects, construing natural history and medi-
cine very broadly, and that continuity rather
than rupture in European intellectual life is
highlighted. The barriers constructed by
historiography between ‘‘middle ages’’ and
‘‘early modern times’’ – which find them-
selves, confusingly, in different periods de-
pending on the discipline in which one is in-
volved – thus easily loose their obstructive
character. Another important issue is also
tackled at an early stage: this volume is
about visualizing and visualization and not
about illustration – whether scientific or
not – in order to avoid confusing and ana-
chronistic assumptions about relations be-
tween early European texts and images.
This grappling with definitions and the at-
tempt to open up modern categories and
make them more sensitive to historical ones
has given the contributors the freedom to
explore such categories and ‘‘consider the
relationship of image, word, and medicine
afresh’’ (p. 1).
Most articles show a thorough awareness
of the extent to which historical visual stu-
dies (or should we call this field historical
imagery?) have changed rapidly over the
last decade or two. Art and art historical
methods are still enormously important.
Yet, in part thanks to the interest of other
experts in the visual cultures of the past,
the range of visual objects to be studied
has vastly expanded. As Peter Murray Jones
argues in an essay which explores the diffe-
rences between illustration and other types
of visual representation, physician’s calen-
dars, pilgrim badges, and frescoes on hospi-
tal walls can all be studied as medical ima-
gery. At the same time the interest in
questions of production, reception, patro-
nage, circulation and function of such visual
objects has increased. Obviously, not every
article in this volume tackles each of these
362 BOOK REVIEWS
topics, but the awareness of their relevance
is nearly always there. The very best essays
in this volume distinguish themselves by
great expertise concerning the topics and
material discussed as well as new insights
into various of these ‘‘new’’ topics, elevating
case studies that are already excellent in
themselves to a level at which they have a
wider relevance.
My personal favourites are the three truly
innovative essays on illuminated natural hi-
story manuscripts by Cathleen Hoeniger,
Alain Touwaide, and Jean Givens, and
two essays about Leonardo da Vinci and
his circle. Of the latter, Karen Reeds looks
at nature printing (using a leaf or other
parts of a plant to print with) and the expe-
rimentation with techniques of depicting
plants. Monica Azzolini shows there is still
a lot to investigate about Leonardo’s anato-
mical studies and the question of where and
how he may have been personally involved
in dissections. She has a more general point
to make as well, showing how a culturally
shaped focus on Leonardo as an isolated ge-
nius has kept us from considering his close-
ness and similarity to his contemporaries.
In an impressive discussion of a previou-
sly unstudied herbal from the late 13
th
or
early 14
th
century and its various manu-
script filiations, Touwaide shows that origi-
nal Byzantine plant images were copied du-
ring the Latin occupation of Byzantium,
combined with European texts, and resha-
ped to form a handy Franco-Latin herbal.
This process of transmission throws light
on Constantinopolitan sources that no lon-
ger exist as well as on the process of cultural
translation involved. Jean Givens compares
two manuscript versions and one printed
version of the Tractatus de herbis which we-
re created between 1280 and 1526. Looking
at the materials used, the nomenclature, the
organization of the text, and the relation
between text and images in these books
about health and plant-based medicine,
she explores reading practices, the visual
cuing systems which helped a reader find
his or her way, and discusses the patrons
for whom these manuscripts were possibly
made.
Cathleen Hoeniger’s essay, finally, is
about illuminated Tacuinum sanitatis manu-
scripts from Northern Italy created during
the period 1380-1400. She discusses both
relations between text and images, the po-
tential uses of such books based on Arabic
handbooks about healthy living, and the
(wealthy) patrons for whom these particu-
larly richly illustrated manuscripts were
created. In doing so the makers drew upon
many different genres, and thus inadverten-
tly (?) invented a new one, also drawing
new images (some of plants in landscapes)
where no previous examples were available
to be copied. Together, the pictures evoke
the peaceful, orderly, and bountiful life on
a well-ordered feudal estate – an image
which, as Hoeniger points out in a final
twist to the story, had little to do with rea-
lity, given the fact that they were created in
a period of warfare, famine and disease in
Northern Italy. Thus, in the last analysis, a
recontextualization of the works discussed
here helps to discover yet another layer of
meaning.
FLORIKE EGMOND
BARBARA OBRIST, La cosmologie me´die´vale:
Textes et images. I: Les fondements anti-
ques. Florence: Sismel - Edizioni del Gal-
luzzo, 2004. 384 pp., ISBN 88-8450-140-7.
As the subtitle suggests, this book should
represent the first volume of an editorial
project focused on cosmological texts and
iconography in the Middle Ages. However,
no details on forthcoming volumes are men-
tioned either in the book, or on the printer’s
website (www.sismel.it). Since this editorial
project would be of great interest to the his-
tory of astronomy, such an uncertainty is
both intriguing and disconcerting.
Barbara Obrist appears extremely aware
of the difficulties and risks she is tacking
by entering the domain of Early-Medieval
cosmology. In contrast to Greek and Re-
naissance science, European astronomy be-
tween the 5
th
and the 10
th
centuries has
been scarcely studied in a systematic man-
BOOK REVIEWS 363
ner. For this reason, Obrist intensively
grounds her research on a relevant number
of manuscripts from different European li-
braries. In evaluating such original sources,
she considers the ancient concept of ‘‘cos-
mology’’ and she focuses on a series of to-
pics involving different modern disciplines
such as geography, surveying, cartography,
meteorology, astronomy and philosophy.
Indeed, the sources examined in the book
range from the description and representa-
tion of the terrestrial and celestial spheres
to the order of the planets and their motion,
from the elements that form the different
parts of the cosmos to their mutual relation-
ships and transformation.
Obrist identifies in the sources a series of
useful guidelines for future studies and, in
the introductory chapter of the book, she
works them into a preliminary systematiza-
tion of Medieval cosmological texts and ico-
nography. In general, Medieval sources can
no longer be considered as the mere result
of diffused spirituality and lack of scientific
competence. This prejudicial background –
typical of most studies by former scholars –
must be discarded in favour of an analysis
that takes into account the contextualized
distinction between texts made for ‘‘specia-
list’’ and texts made for ‘‘non-specialist’’.
Within these two domains, iconographical
contents include diagrammatic figures of
data with mnemonic purposes, geometrical
schemes clarifying mathematical demon-
strations, and ‘‘realistic’’ representations of
the cosmos and its parts. Obrist is also able
to delineate the chronological evolution of
such iconographic contents.
The fact that the book should be the first
part of a wider editorial project may justify
the following peculiarity. Whereas major at-
tention is given to the ways in which certain
notions or images moved from one manu-
script to another, and to the possibility to
establish their relationship with a common
original source, minor attention is given to
the implications that the contents of the
manuscripts and their diffusion have for
the history of science. In other words, Obr-
ist prefers to examine the philological evo-
lution of texts and iconography. This fact
explains why, after delineating the three
main ancient philosophical currents that in-
fluenced Medieval cosmology – Platonism,
Aristotelism and Stoicism – she concen-
trates on the transmission of a few exempli-
fying concepts in different manuscripts con-
taining the works by Calcidius, Proclus,
Isidorus of Seville, Macrobius, Martianus
Capella, and others.
The only problematic point of the book
appears to be the attempt to merge textual
and iconographic information with the his-
tory of scientific instruments. For example,
Obrist mentions the Kugel’s Globe (300-
100 B.C.E.) as being shown in colour plate
8. However, such a plate illustrates (a repli-
ca of?) the Roman Globe (2
nd
, century
C.E.) preserved at the Ro¨ misch-Germa-
nisches Zentralmuseum of Mainz. More-
over, Obrist mentions secondary sources
about the Antikythera mechanism up to
John Derek De Solla Price, without consid-
ering recent publications by Michael
Wright and others. Nevertheless, she is able
to obtain fascinating results for the history
of ancient scientific instruments. In particu-
lar, she outlines that manuscript sources
suggest the existence and diffusion of com-
plex astronomical instruments in Greek
and Roman antiquity. Common armillary
spheres and globes could be accompanied
by devices – similar to the Antikythera me-
chanism and the planetarium of Archi-
medes – displaying the motion of the celes-
tial bodies.
Finally, the book’s apparatus is well orga-
nized and allows quick consultation. In ad-
dition to exhaustive footnotes, the volume
includes an extensive bibliography and sev-
eral indexes of illustrations, topics, names,
authors of secondary sources, and consulted
manuscripts. The book also includes many
pictures of a number of the most important
manuscripts examined.
GIORGIO STRANO
CRISTINA VIANO, La matie`re des choses. Le
livre IV des Me´ te´ orologiques d’Aristote
364 BOOK REVIEWS
et son interpre´tation par Olympiodore.
Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin,
2006. 409 pp., ISBN 2-7116-1828-5.
The reputation of Olympiodorus, a sixth-
century Alexandrian commentator on Aris-
totle and Plato, has suffered over the years;
he has been deemed both unoriginal and
lacking in philosophical depth. At first
glance, an analysis of his commentary on
Arisotle’s Meteorologica IV might not be
considered the place to rehabilitate Olym-
piodorus, but this is exactly what Cristina
Viano does in this skillfully argued volume.
We are fortunate to find in Viano’s work
two interpretations, hers and Olympio-
dorus’, of Meteorologica IV, a treatise that
is well known among historians of ancient
science and philosophy for its discussion
of the problem of mixtures and the second-
ary properties of materials, its blurring of
distinctions between the categories of the
natural and artificial, and its explanations
of the relation between hierarchies of mat-
ter and of knowledge.
Viano’s book succeeds on multiple levels.
On a textual level, it provides a new edition
of Olympiodorus’ commentary and the first
published translation of this work in a mod-
ern language. Both the edition and transla-
tion are of much value. On an interpretative
level, Viano demonstrates the complexity of
Olympiodorus’ methods of interpretation
and the relevance of Olympiodorus’ views
to both the Aristotelian tradition and to
contemporary interpretations of Aristotle.
Olympiodorus was greatly concerned
with the questions of taxis and scopos, and
put forth considerable effort in finding a so-
lution for the place of Meteorologica IV, a
question that had already been debated
for centuries. He contended that the fourth
book shares a common theme with the first
three because all four books, traditionally
included in the Meteorologica, discuss the
affections (pathainomena) of the elements;
the first three books concentrate on these
affections as they appear in the exhalations,
composed of partially transformed ele-
ments, that are the matter of meteorological
phenomena, while Meteorologica IV exam-
ines these affections in homeomers, formed
out of mixtures of the elements (pp. 92-
101). Viano, stakes out her own position,
calling the treatise ‘‘amphibious’’, a digres-
sion on the first three books that follows
yet, potentially, can stand on its own
(pp. 109-113). This account is reasonable
in it recognizes that the Aristotelian corpus
was not published in a modern sense and
that our hope of finding the true order of
the books is chimerical.
Some of the most interesting aspects of
Viano’s analysis come from her association
of the fourth book with the previous three.
All of the books which come under the title
Meteorologica share a concern for matter,
not in relation to the metaphysical concept
of prime matter, but rather with respect to
concrete manifestations of terrestrial physi-
cal transformations. As a result, the terms
of analysis are applied less strictly in these
four books than in De generatione et corrup-
tione, De caelo, and the Physics. For exam-
ple, sea water is imprecisely called a mixture
(krasis) in Meteorologica 2.3, but it truly is
a juxtaposition or composite (sunthesis)
(pp. 155-156). Similarly, the pores that ex-
plain some of the secondary passive quali-
ties in the later chapters of book four,
should not be taken as pores stricto sensu,
such as are rejected in the polemics against
Empedocles in De generatione et corrup-
tione, but are better interpreted, as Olym-
piodorus does, as the parts of a substance
that are affected more easily (eupathestera
moria) (p. 161). Olympiodorus’ diagnostic
theory, which used tekmeriodic proof in a
novel way, also avoids metaphysics by
searching for the proximate causes for the
characteristics of materials instead of at-
tempting to explain their efficient and ma-
terial causes by the unmoved mover or
prime matter. Adding to the growing scho-
larship on empiricism stemming from the
Meteorologica’s tradition, Viano concludes
that Olympiodorus’ theory of diagnosis ad-
vocates experiential and potentially experi-
mental investigations into nature, even if
there is little evidence that Olympiodorus
applied such methods (pp. 192-194).
BOOK REVIEWS 365
The above issues are just part of Viano’s
scope. She also discusses distinctions be-
tween art and nature, final causes (even
though Olympiodorus’ comments on Me-
teorologica 4.12 are disappointingly non-ex-
tant), the relation of this work to alchemy,
methods for interpreting Aristotle, and the
subsequent influence of this treatise. By all
means, we can be grateful that she has
resuscitated Olympiodorus, demonstrated
that he is an able guide to Meteorologica IV,
and made his commentary far more accessi-
ble than ever.
CRAIG MARTIN
LEONID ZHMUD, The Origin of the History of
Science in Antiquity. Translated from the
Russian by Alexander Chernoglazov. Ber-
lin-New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2006.
VIII+331 pp., ISBN 10: 3-11-017966-0.
The book explores the emergence and
decline of the history of science in classical
antiquity. Due to the paucity of primary
sources and the ambiguity of the extant
fragments remaining, it took an extremely
accurate and comprehensive survey of an
immense variety of ancient texts to com-
plete this truly remarkable piece of scholar-
ship. In contrast to a common belief,
Zhmud shows that since the earliest times
of their culture, Greek scholars showed a
keen interest in the historical reconstruction
of both the genealogy of civilization and the
origin of sciences and arts. At the begin-
ning, such an interest was mainly character-
ized by the quests of the heroic and mytho-
logical origins of inventions which paved
the way to the heuremamathography or a
history of gods-inventors (Athena, Demeter,
Apollo) and cultural heroes and sages (Pala-
medes, Daedalus, Anacharsis, Thales) who
were often credited not only as discoverers
but also as founding fathers of scientific dis-
ciplines (mathematics and astronomy) and
arts (architecture). While it is difficult to
see in these reconstructions the emergence
of a truly historical interest, with the pro-
gressive specialization of Greek sciences,
scholars and philosophers began to survey
the boundaries of their research field by re-
constructing the historical origin of specific
sets of problems. Within this framework, it
was perceived that scientific knowledge had
a history and, at the same time, that such a
history was marked by a distinctive progress
of its technical notions. In this respect, the
first work in which such an awareness be-
comes apparent is the Hippocratic treatise
on ancient medicine (V century BCE)
where ‘‘the author ... is not only enthusiastic
about progress in investigations and discov-
eries that are enriching medicine with new
knowledge, but also believes medicine as a
whole to be a human discovery’’ (p. 55).
The consequence of the human origins of
sciences and arts was therefore coupled
with the awareness of their progressive nat-
ure. Naturally, the idea of progress which
emerged in this and later writings was far
from our own but it nevertheless expressed
an awareness that justified the cognitive va-
lue of historical research. In this specific re-
spect the author provides a convincing reas-
sessment of the historiographical position
held by Ludiwg Edelstein in his seminal
work The idea of progress in Classical anti-
quity (1967).
The author follows in great detail the
evolution of Greek historiography of
science by taking into account the Peripate-
tic historical project and the emergence of
specialised styles such doxography and his-
toriography. While with the first approach
Theophrastus and Meno – respectively
authors of a physical and a medical doxo-
graphy – aimed to collect a chronology of
the opinions of past scientists in order to
provide a useful receptacle of ideas for cur-
rent philosophical discussions and systema-
tizations, with the historical works this tele-
ological principle was no longer present and
the history of science began to have an
autonomous value. The main works repre-
senting the latter approach are Eudemus’
histories of mathematics (geometry and ar-
ithmetic) and astronomy, three works of
which only few fragments remain and which
were never imitated thereafter (p. 167). The
author examines these fragments in great
366 BOOK REVIEWS
details and is able to contextualize them
both within contemporary and later
sources. This brings to conclude that ‘‘like
a modern historian of mathematics, Eude-
mus was interested not only in the discovery
itself, but also in details of the proofs and its
correspondence with demonstration in his
own day, in peculiarities of terminology,
connections with other sciences etc. This as-
pect of Eudemus’ works, testifying to his
conscientious approach to sources, is one
of the guarantees that he avoided introdu-
cing arbitrary changes into his material un-
less he had to’’ (p. 201). Within this effort,
Eudemus emphasized the progressive nat-
ure of mathematical knowledge from the
early utilitarian applications of it in Egypt
to the perfection of his own day.
The interest in the history of science ar-
ose when Greek science was reaching its
‘‘most glorious heights’’ (p. 277) and at-
tracted the attention of professional scien-
tists, so much so that Zhmud is able to re-
cognize Eudemus’ influence in several
contemporary scientific works.
Despite its specialized nature, anyone
with a keen interest in the history of science
in general will find in this book a most valu-
able material. A comprehensive bibliogra-
phy and a useful index conclude the vo-
lume.
MARCO BERETTA
Renaissance and Early Modern Science
PATRICE BAILHACHE (ed.), Pierre Gassendi:
Initiation a` la the´orie de la musique ou
partie spe´culative de la musique (Manu-
ductio ad theoriam, seu partem speculati-
vam musicae). Turnhout: Brepols, 2005.
113 pp., ISBN 2-503-51885-0.
La Manuductio, pubblicata nel 1655 ma
redatta presumibilmente nel 1636 (cfr. Ini-
tiation a` la the´orie de la musique. Texte de
la Manuductio, trad. fr. a cura di Gaston
Guieu, Aix-en-Provence: Edisud, 1992,
p. 5), presenta solo lievi rielaborazioni suc-
cessive a questa data, come testimoniano
la citazione della Musurgia Universalis di
Kircher (1650) e l’assenza di rinvii espliciti
all’Harmonie Universelle (1636-1637) e agli
Harmonicorum Libri (1636, 1648
2
) di Mer-
senne. La presente traduzione, eseguita
con grande accuratezza da Patrice Bailha-
che, e` preceduta da una chiara introduzione
e accompagnata da un apparato di note che
consentono un’agevole lettura del testo an-
che a studiosi non dediti abitualmente a te-
matiche musicologiche.
Questa breve Initiation non presenta ele-
menti di originalita` paragonabili al Compen-
dium Musicae di Descartes o alle numerose
opere sulla musica di Mersenne, ne´ lascia
trasparire aspetti della riflessione filosofica
dell’Autore, come avviene invece nella piu`
approfondita trattazione sul suono condotta
nel Syntagma philosophicum. Dedicata al fu-
turo cardinale Ce´ sar d’Estre´ es e suddivisa in
quattro brevi capitoli e un capitolo intro-
duttivo, l’opera affronta le tradizionali que-
stioni delle tre proporzioni armonica, geo-
metrica e aritmetica, della classificazione
delle consonanze, dei generi (diatonico, cro-
matico, enarmonico) e dei modi musicali e
di alcune fondamentali regole contrappunti-
stiche, attingendo principalmente ai trattati
di Boezio, Guido d’Arezzo, Jean de Murs
e Gioseffo Zarlino.
A differenza dell’impostazione geometri-
ca di Kepler e Descartes e di quella fisica
di Mersenne, Vincenzo e Galileo Galilei,
Gassendi mantiene la tradizionale subordi-
nazione della musica all’aritmetica (p. 28
[633 c1]) poiche´ il suo oggetto e` il ‘‘numero
canoro e armonico’’, la definizione dei modi
musicali avviene sulla base di precise suc-
cessioni numeriche e in un canto polifonico
l’armonia tra le voci dipende dal rispetto di
determinati rapporti aritmetici. La confor-
BOOK REVIEWS 367
mita` a tale classificazione delle arti del qua-
drivium lo induce ad adottare il sistema
d’intonazione proposto dal teorico italiano
Zarlino: seguendo il procedimento aritmeti-
co della divisione successiva degli intervalli
secondo la proporzione armonica, Gassendi
respinge le varie proposte di temperamento
discusse in quegli anni e nega che gli inter-
valli impiegati nelle composizioni musicali
possano essere divisi in due o piu` parti
uguali (pp. 52 [641 c1] e sgg.).
Tale impostazione convive pero` con un
‘‘modo generale’’ di distinguere gli intervalli
consonanti da quelli dissonanti proprio della
fisica acustica, la quale e` debitrice della le-
zione di Mersenne con cui Gassendi condi-
vide nel 1632 alcune esperienze sulla natura
del suono (Mersenne a Gassendi, 17 novem-
bre 1635, CM V, p. 483). La piacevolezza
delle consonanze e` inoltre definita sulla base
della coincidenza di vibrazioni di piu` suoni
che colpiscono l’udito (p. 60 [643 c2]),
non e` cartesianamente legata ad elementi
soggettivi – nei quali svolge un ruolo prima-
rio la memoria – ne´ e` espressa in termini di
divisioni geometriche della corda (p. 64
[644 c2]). Nonostante Gassendi non men-
zioni la legge della frequenza, formulata da
Beeckman e pubblicata da Mersenne negli
Harmonicorum Libri e nell’Harmonie Uni-
verselle, e non accetti di annoverare l’uniso-
no tra le consonanze (a cui invece il Minimo
aveva dedicato oltre trenta pagine nell’opera
del 1636-1637 con l’intento di applicare ai
dibattiti trinitari quella che riteneva essere
la consonanza piu` perfetta), egli esamina i
corretti rapporti studiati da Mersenne e Vin-
cenzo Galilei tra suono, volume delle canne
d’organo, lunghezza della corda e peso ad
essa applicato. Gassendi discute inoltre del
fenomeno della vibrazione per simpatia del-
le corde, studio che aveva occupato le pagi-
ne di Fracastoro, Bacon, Descartes, Beeck-
man, Mersenne, Galileo, ma che solo negli
ultimi tre si era esteso anche all’intervallo
di quinta, limite che Gassendi oltrepassa
considerando anche le rimanenti consonan-
ze di quarta, terze e seste maggiori e minori.
L’ultimo capitolo affronta il tema dell’e-
thos dei modi musicali, argomento tradizio-
nale ma discusso con rinnovato interesse in
seguito alla polemica suscitata da Boe¨ sset (e
alla quale partecipano anche Mersenne e
Descartes) circa la liceita` di trasgredire la
vincolante corrispondenza di modi musicali
e passioni. Anche in questo caso Gassendi
non menziona tale dibattito contempora-
neo, preferendo ricollegarsi implicitamente
alla Politica di Aristotele, alla Repubblica e
alle Leggi di Platone.
La Manuductio termina con l’enunciazio-
ne di alcune basilari regole compositive del
contrappunto relative all’andamento delle
voci per gradi o per salti, alle successioni in-
tervallari, al ricorso al principio della varie-
ta` , confermando cosı` che, come precisato
nella dedica iniziale, l’intento di Gassendi
e` di fornire un compendio per musicisti
principianti.
NATACHA FABBRI
ANTONIO BARRERA-OSORIO, Experiencing
Nature. The Spanish American Empire
and the Early Scientific Revolution. Au-
stin: The University of Texas Press,
2006. XII+211 pp., ISBN 0292-70981-1.
Set within the historical period relating
to Charles V (1516-1555) and Philip II
(1555-1598), Antonio Barrera-Osorio’s Ex-
periencing Nature is a welcome addition to
the still under-investigated field of Spanish
and Spanish-American history of science
in the early modern period. Its focus on
the trans-Atlantic aspect of scientific com-
munication and formation is a further posi-
tive development in that it broadens out
current research to look beyond the local
context and to place individual action with-
in both the world of government and that of
commerce.
Experiencing Nature aims to explore the
development of the rules and practices sur-
rounding the collection, organisation and
dissemination of information concerning
the New World: institutions, mechanisms
for testing, and the production of knowl-
edge. It also seeks to integrate the Atlantic
world into the history of science, exploring
the break with the humanist approach to
368 BOOK REVIEWS
knowledge and the rise of importance and
recognition of individual experience. Most
importantly it endeavours to highlight the
Spanish-American (although it must be said
that it remains largely Iberian in its focus)
contribution to sixteenth-century science
by investigating the role of the House of
Trade (Casa de Contratacio´ n) and the
Council of Indies (Consejo de Indias). The
work is based on two main arguments re-
garding the Spanish contribution to the
Scientific Revolution, referred to as two
‘‘overlapping stories’’: the development of
empirical practice through the relationship
between the crown and its subjects, and
the crown’s attempts to institutionalise
these same practices.
Following a detailed introduction, Ex-
periencing Nature is divided into five chap-
ters, each of which investigates a distinct as-
pect of the institutionalisation of science in
the Spanish domains. Each chapter leads
thematically into the next in an attempt to
provide an overall picture of the processes
followed by the Crown and the key players
chosen to support the author’s main argu-
ments. The arguments are illustrated by a
number of case studies, and augmented by
the appendices comprising lists of instru-
ments, published works and names of indi-
viduals involved in the institutions in ques-
tion.
Overall, this work is useful as a general
introduction to the question of Spanish in-
volvement in scientific, technological and
cartographic developments in the early
modern world. Whilst, in positive terms, it
aims to cover a wide range of areas relating
the public and the private aspects of inven-
tions and the systematization of knowledge,
this is also its weakness. Each chapter intro-
duces the reader to ideas, institutions and
individuals that merit a much greater and,
perhaps, more in-depth analysis than such
a slim volume can allow. As a result the
reader is left desiring more information
and a greater connection between the con-
stituent parts and the wider transatlantic
context, especially the brief comparisons
with Portuguese and British contempor-
aries. Greater attention to these areas
would, indeed, add considerable weight to
the author’s claim regarding Spanish influ-
ence in the early Scientific Revolution. In
his introduction, Barrera-Osorio rightly in-
dicates that most scholarly focus has fallen
on the published natural histories relating
to the Americas. However, the claim that,
in Experiencing Nature, these histories will
be explored within the setting of unpub-
lished materials is slightly misleading as
the ‘‘unpublished materials’’ in their major-
ity constitute para-literary or non-literary
examples, i.e. institutions, maps, machinery
and so forth. Where a table of twenty-five
examples of published works is included
in the appendices the lack of comparison
with other nations leaves it unclear whether
this is a large body of work to appear over
the course of a century. Furthermore, and
this is admittedly outside the remit of the
work, this portrayal of a rich and varied
scientific community leaves the question of
the ‘‘decline’’ of a visible Spanish involve-
ment in the international scientific world
hanging over the reader’s head. The lack
of published accounts was an issue that
was to concern so many Creole and Iberian
scientists and thinkers just over a century la-
ter. Furthermore, in order to build upon
the work of scholars such as Can˜ izares-Es-
guerra, this question in particular needs still
to be fully addressed.
Experiencing Nature is, in conclusion, a
welcome addition to the rather limited
number of English language publications
advancing research into the scientific as-
pects of the Iberian Atlantic world. It is
written in an accessible manner with chap-
ters that lead smoothly from one aspect of
the discussion to another. It highlights the
number of areas that remain as rich possibi-
lities for in-depth future exploration, and it
is hoped that the author takes these argu-
ments further in future publications.
FIONA CLARK
DOMENICO BERTOLONI MELI, Thinking with
Objects: The Transformation of Mechanics
BOOK REVIEWS 369
in the Seventeenth Century. Baltimore:
The Johns Hopkins University Press,
2006. 389 pp., ISBN 0-8018-8426-8.
‘‘Mechanics can no longer be called me-
chanics’’, Guidobaldo del Monte wrote in
1577, ‘‘when it is abstracted and separated
from machines’’. A little over a century la-
ter, however, theorical mechanics had in
fact almost completely severed its roots in
machines, to become the general, abstract,
and mathematical science of solid and fluid
bodies in motion. The history of mechanics
over that remarkable century has been told
several times already, notably in Rene´ Du-
gas’s La me´canique au XVII
e
sie`cle (1954)
and in Richard S. Westfall’s Force in New-
ton’s Physics (1971). While Dugas left it to
his readers to extract what central themes
they could from his compendious and cir-
cumstantial account, Westfall told the story
of the emergence of key mechanical con-
cepts – inertia, mass, work, energy, and of
course force – from the welter of confusing
and conflicting alternatives.
Domenico Bertoloni Meli has taken a dif-
ferent tack. Instead of tracing the origins of
the central concepts of mechanics, an ap-
proach (he claims) is particularly suscepti-
ble to anachronism, he has begun with the
objects that fell under the scrutiny of me-
chanical theorists, objects that presented
them both with problems to solve and with
models and analogues for their solutions.
These objects were neither the simple ma-
chines that Guidobaldo had adopted from
Pappus of Alexandria to define the scope
of sixteenth-century mechanics (the lever,
pulley, wheel and axel, wedge, and screw),
nor the sophisticated instruments of seven-
teenth-century experimental philosophy
(such as the telescope, microscope, thermo-
meter, barometer, and air pump). Rather,
they were objects of common experience –
falling and colliding bodies, inclined planes,
vibrating strings, pendulums, springs,
beams, floating bodies, and pierced cis-
terns. By approaching early-modern me-
chanical thinkers from the practical objects
they investigated, Bertoloni Meli can follow
their thinking forward in a way less prone to
anachronism than by tracing modern con-
cepts backwards. At the same time, he does
not give undue prominence to engineers or
craftsmen, as if practical experience alone
of such objects could reveal the theoretical
secrets of mechanics. Rather, he sees these
objects as the occasions and the chief stimu-
li to mechanical thinking – which is the
source of the title of the book and its main
thesis. As with Westfall, the emphasis is still
on the thinking part.
The various objects, taken up more or
less chronologically, order the ten chapters,
beginning with Guidobaldo’s attempt to re-
duce all the simple machines to the balance
and Stevin’s brilliant solution to the inclined
plane. There follow chapters on Benedetti’s
and Galileo’s early theories of floating and
falling bodies based on Archimedean hy-
drostatics; Galileo’s new sciences of the
strength of beams and the speeds of falling
bodies; Mersenne’s work on vibrating
strings, Torricelli’s on projectiles and the
flow of water from a pierced cistern, and
Riccoli’s on the speeds of descent of various
materials through water and air; the rise of
the mechanical philosophy in the theories
of motion and impact of Galileo, Beeck-
mann, Marci, and Descartes. After a brief
interlude on the historical and institutional
circumstances of mechanics mid-century,
the second group of five chapters takes up
the motion and equilibrium of fluids in
the work of Castelli, Pascal, Boyle, and
others; orbital and pendular motion in Fab-
ri, Borelli, and Huygens; collision, springs,
and elasticity in Boyle and Hooke; the mo-
tions of planets in Halley, Wren, Hooke,
and Newton; and the emergence of analytic
mechanics and principles of conservation in
Leibniz and Varignon. In this last chapter it
becomes clear that by the end of the cen-
tury the stimulus of objects has run its
course, giving way to more purely concep-
tual and mathematical advances, such as
Leibniz’s distinction between quantity of
motion and vis viva, Newton’s disentan-
gling of force from its pretenders, and the
general use of differential equations. The
concluding chapter presents a somewhat
tangled ‘‘map’’ of the nexus of objects as
370 BOOK REVIEWS
a kind of summary of the mechanical
thought of the century.
The use of objects as the skeleton-key
guide to the transformation of seventeenth-
century mechanics offers the singular advan-
tages of a sensitivity to the conceptual and
practical difficulties faced by mechanical in-
vestigators and an avoidance of the ana-
chronism likely when working backwards
from modern ideas of force or laws of con-
servation. But as Bertoloni Meli duly notes,
the transformation of mechanics in the end
entailed the throwing off of the tyranny of
the lever, the balance, and the other me-
chanical objects to become the abstract
science of bodies in motion governed by
general laws of nature – a mechanics without
machines, a thinking without objects.
W.R. LAIRD
MARIANNE COJANNOT-LE BLANC, MARISA
DALAI EMILIANI, PASCAL GLATIGNY
(eds.), L’artista, l’opera e la sfida della
prospettiva. Roma: E
´
cole Franc¸ aise de
Rome, 2006. 485 pp., ISBN 2-7283-
0740-7.
Nel corso del Novecento si e` assistito ad
un risveglio dell’interesse per i temi pro-
spettici ed il dibattito si e` gradualmente am-
pliato per avvicinarsi, con strumenti cono-
scitivi scientifici, ad ambiti applicativi della
disciplina non limitati a quello storico-arti-
stico. Una testimonianza della volonta` di
riassumere i progressi compiuti nel secolo
appena trascorso e` fornita da questo volu-
me, che contiene gli atti del convegno, tenu-
tosi a Roma tra il 19 e il 21 settembre 2002,
organizzato dall’Universita` di Roma ‘‘La Sa-
pienza’’, dall’Ecole Franc¸ aise de Rome e
dall’Accade´ mie de France a` Rome.
La prima sezione, sui contesti di speri-
mentazione della prospettiva, si occupa di
tematiche diversificate dal punto di vista
della collocazione spaziale e temporale, ma
che risultano tutte testimoniate dall’attento
confronto tra prove documentali e materiali
(Dominique Raynaud). Si riconosce all’otti-
ca ed alla sua diffusione un ruolo primario
per l’evoluzione duecentesca della pittura
in senso illusionistico (Francesca Cecchini).
Per quanto riguarda la propagazione geo-
grafica della prospettiva, sono interessanti
gli episodi sulla sua esportazione nel Porto-
gallo del Settecento, attraverso l’opera del
pittore fiorentino Vincenzo Bacherelli, con-
giunta agli insegnamenti dei Gesuiti (Magno
Mello), oltre alla quasi contemporanea in-
troduzione della prospettiva in Russia (Irina
Gouze´ vitch-Dimitri Gouze´ vitch). La volon-
ta` di rinnovare le illustrazioni a corredo di
una nuova edizione degli Elementi di Eucli-
de rivela, da parte del matematico cinque-
centesco Federico Commandino, l’interesse
nel recupero dell’antica disciplina della sce-
nografia, attraverso l’applicazione delle logi-
che prospettiche (Alessandra Sorci).
La prospettiva pratica e` protagonista del-
la seconda sezione, dove si conferma la po-
tenzialita` della materia, come incontro tra
arte e scienza (Pascal Dubourg Glatigny).
Sono oggetto di studio l’eredita` dureriana
e la volonta` di una sua semplificazione nei
Kunstbu¨ cher della Germania del XVI seco-
lo (Jeanne Peiffer). Si esamina, inoltre, l’ap-
plicazione della scienza prospettica alla pro-
gettazione dei giardini nel Settecento
(Georges Farhat) e si riconoscono alcuni
episodi significativi della letteratura pro-
spettica nell’ambito della cultura degli inge-
gneri (He´ le` ne Ve´ rin). Per quanto concerne
la didattica, si approfondiscono interessanti
capitoli sull’insegnamento della prospettiva
all’Accademia di San Luca tra Seicento e
Settecento (Marica Marzotto) e all’Acade´ -
mie Royale de Mathe´ matiques di Barcellona
(Jorge Galindo Diaz). La creazione di stru-
menti topografici, basati sulla logica proiet-
tiva prospettica, permette di riconoscere le
radici rinascimentali di una importante ed
attuale applicazione pratica del metodo di
rappresentazione al disegno scientifico, in-
dividuata nella determinazione delle misure
reali di un soggetto, a partire dalla sua rap-
presentazione in prospettiva (Filippo Came-
rota).
Il dibattito sull’efficacia della restituzione
prospettica e` ampiamente approfondito nel-
la terza e ultima sezione del libro, dove si
BOOK REVIEWS 371
presentano esperienze e ricerche che conte-
stano le semplificazioni e gli anacronismi di
alcuni precedenti studi (Pietro Roccasecca);
si propone, quindi, l’applicazione della teo-
ria degli errori, allo scopo di conquistare la
credibilita` scientifica nei tentativi di restitu-
zione prospettica applicata alla pittura (Do-
minique Raynaud). Si presentano alcune
nuove acquisizioni consentite dai recenti re-
stauri degli affreschi di Piero della France-
sca nella chiesa di San Francesco ad Arezzo
(Marisa Dalai Emiliani) e le ricerche con-
dotte su alcuni dipinti della National Galle-
ry of Art di Londra, che svelano nuove pro-
ve materiali sulle conoscenze prospettiche
nell’Italia del Quattrocento (Pietro Rocca-
secca). Si rivelano, inoltre, le applicazioni
della prospettiva all’ideazione di alcuni alle-
stimenti museografici (Paolo Martellotti) e
le inedite ipotesi sulla formazione artistica
di Beato Angelico (Anna Luce Sicurezza).
Sulla prospettiva secentesca, si indaga attor-
no alla misteriosa ed accattivante Veduta di
Mariakerk a Utrecht di Pieter Saenredam
(Jan Blanc) e si interpretano le caratteristi-
che dell’atticismo francese, alla luce dei suoi
legami con la scienza prospettica (Marianne
Cojannot-Le Blanc).
Sono oggetto di approfondimento, inol-
tre, alcune testimonianze artistiche sulla
prospettiva cinquecentesca, confrontate con
i contenuti dei trattati coevi (Pascal Du-
bourg Glatigny) e, per concludere, si esami-
na il dibattito critico e ideologico sulla pro-
spettiva a seguito della pubblicazione della
traduzione italiana del 1961 del testo della
Prospettiva come forma simbolica di Erwin
Panofsky del 1924 (Maria Mignini).
E
`
proprio il testo di Panofsky che e` indi-
viduato come origine del frequentato dibat-
tito novecentesco sulla prospettiva, ma an-
che come limite circa l’oggetto degli studi
critici, che non potevano ormai limitarsi alla
discussione sul valore simbolico di questo
metodo di rappresentazione della realta` tri-
dimensionale. La prospettiva dei pittori, de-
gli scultori e degli architetti si riconosce,
quindi, come strumento di indagine e cono-
scenza, il cui appannaggio e` esteso agli inge-
gneri e agli scienziati. Si allargano, infine, gli
orizzonti geografici e temporali, che rendo-
no la prospettiva un fenomeno non limitato
al territorio italiano o al solo periodo rina-
scimentale che, pur significativo, non costi-
tuisce inizio o termine di un fenomeno di
cosı` estesa portata culturale.
CRISTINA CA
`
NDITO
ALIX COOPER, Inventing the Indigenous. Lo-
cal Knowledge and Natural History in
Early Modern Europe. Cambridge and
New York: Cambridge University Press,
2007. 218 pp., ISBN 978-0-521-87087-0.
Local knowledge concerning nature is
usually taken to be the knowledge that the
inhabitants of a certain place or region have
of their natural surroundings. The term re-
fers especially to practical knowledge based
on experience and tradition rather than on
learned publications or formal education.
That is not what this book is about, however,
and the topic arises only briefly in a short
section at the beginning of Chapter 5, which
actually deals with the (contrasting) attitudes
of two famous European scientists – the
Swiss Scheuchzer and the Swede Linnaeus
– towards local knowledge. The three core
chapters of the book concern, in fact, a dif-
ferent topic: the birth and evolution (from
the early seventeenth century onwards) of
certain genres of publications about nature,
in which locality plays an important part:
the local flora with its lists of plants; regional
mineralogical treatises; and the natural his-
tory of a territory. Such publications were al-
most exclusively produced by men with a
university (often medical) training, quite a
few of whom did not come from the region
they described. It is thus not by chance that
nearly all of the longer case studies in this
book concern famous naturalists/scientists
or physicians, such as Paracelsus, Scheuch-
zer, Linnaeus, and Oldenburg. Some inter-
esting topics do emerge in these chapters:
the different styles of natural history writing
that developed in Germany and England;
links between the emergence of the genre
of the local flora in Germany, with its em-
372 BOOK REVIEWS
phasis on locality and local roots (of both
people and plants), and the intense politi-
cal/territorial fragmentation of the German
empire and the concomitant large number
of educational institutions.
Yet, if this book was actually meant as a
study of locality and genres of natural his-
tory writing, more than the title has gone
wrong. It is amazing, for instance, that a dis-
cussion of the person who may be regarded
as the inventor of the regional/national flora
is lacking. The name of perhaps the most fa-
mous botanist before Linnaeus, Carolus
Clusius, occurs only once and is missing
from the index. In 1576 Clusius published
what is regarded as the first territorially-
based European flora, on the Iberian penin-
sula, written in Latin for a learned and defi-
nitely non-local public. This work is so
important for Spanish botany that an
annotated Spanish translation was pub-
lished recently (2005). Clusius also pub-
lished the first reports on Hungarian plants
and fungi, which were likewise based on
fieldwork and information from local inha-
bitants. The fact that Clusius and several
of his 16
th
-century fellow botanists (who
published herbals and printed botanical en-
cyclopaedias) included both European and
non-European plants in many of their
works may have clashed too much with this
book’s emphasis on indigeneity. Perhaps for
similar reasons the author has not managed
to come to terms with the widespread phe-
nomenon of the natural history collection in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
These collections too presented a global
world and not a local one: they were (to
use another term which frequently occurs
in this book) ‘inclusive’.
In fact, this book deals seriously with
neither local knowledge (as most people un-
derstand it) nor inventing the indigenous.
The fact that sixteenth-century botanical
encyclopaedias distinguished between Eur-
opean and non-European plant species is
not sufficient to justify speaking of an idiom
of ‘indigeneity’ unless that distinction coin-
cides with statements of fear or hatred of
foreign plants (and plant-based drugs) or
of extreme praise of the indigenous. Such
statements can indeed be found, and a
thread linking botanical ‘nationalism’ with
political philosophies such as cameralism –
discussed in an excellent way for Linnaeus
by Lisbet Koerner – forms one of the more
interesting topics in this book. But it never
becomes a main theme which could have
helped to hold together the various chap-
ters. The use of the term indigeneity is,
moreover, problematic in itself. Even if an
early modern European author did com-
pare European and non-European ‘indigen-
ous’, it does not follow that ‘indigeneity’
was a crucial concept in Early Modern Eur-
ope. Its use as such here painfully contrasts
with the author’s announcement (p. 20) that
she will use mainly the ‘actor’s categories’.
This book thus seems to be the result
of great conceptual confusion: it hovers
around various interesting topics without
ever managing to get a consistent argument
going. It overstates its claims and pretends
to cover a much vaster domain than it actu-
ally does. Europe in this book means Ger-
many and Switzerland, with brief excur-
sions to examples from England, the
Netherlands and Sweden. Generalizing
statements too often rest on a few case stu-
dies. And the introduction in particular suf-
fers from the author’s tendency to put an
icing of academic jargon that is (or was)
fashionable in the United States on a con-
tent which does not really support those
concepts. Some of the blame here should
go to Cambridge University Press, however.
The editing has been sloppy: some phrases
are literally repeated (for instance pp. 19
and 22), and several paragraphs are redun-
dant. Let us hope that local European
knowledge of nature will eventually get
the treatment it deserves.
FLORIKE EGMOND
ALLEN G. DEBUS, The Chemical Promise.
Experiment and Mysticism in the Chemi-
cal Philosophy: 1550-1800. Sagamore
Beach: Science History Publication/Wat-
BOOK REVIEWS 373
son Publishing International, 2006. XXV+
548 pp., ISBN 0-88135-296-9.
This is a collection of twenty-six essays
already published, except for two, in a vari-
ety of journals and learned volumes be-
tween 1960 and 1998. As such it forms a
companion volume to the Variorum vo-
lume, Chemistry, Alchemy and the New Phi-
losophy 1500-1700, published by Ashgate
twenty years ago, which brought together
fourteen previously published papers by
Debus. Both volumes deal with chemistry
and medicine in the early modern period.
Considering that Allen Debus has pub-
lished widely in a variety of journals and vo-
lumes in many different countries and lan-
guages, a collection like the present is of
considerable value to scholars working in
this field.
Rather than arranging the essays in
chronological order from the sixteenth to
the eighteenth century, Debus has chosen
to present them topically All in all this
works well and makes it possible for Debus
to use his reprinted article on alchemy from
Dictionary of the History of Ideas (1973) as a
first chapter in the book’s short section on
the Alchemical Background, while his
wide-ranging Distinguished Lecture from
the 1996 meeting of the History of Science
Society in Atlanta provides a stimulating in-
troduction to the whole volume.
Bearing in mind that some of the essays
included in this volume are nearly fifty years
old, they are far from being past their sell by
date in either style or content, and they de-
monstrate the value and durability of meti-
culous and well-researched scholarship.
Apart from the two chapters on the alchem-
ical background, this volume offers six
chapters on the chemical philosophy, no
less than thirteen chapters on chemistry
and medicine in their national settings,
and finally four essays on the eighteenth
century and the chemical revolution.
For scholars interested in this field a
number of the essays reprinted here will al-
ready be familiar, especially those published
in the more mainstream journals, but some
they are unlikely to have encountered be-
fore, such as ‘‘Chemical Medicine in Early
Modern Europe’’ which appears here for
the first time in English. Other essays have
been difficult to get hold of because they
had appeared in collections which were
published in relatively small print-runs and
have been out of print for decades. Person-
ally I am glad to find Debus’s excellent ar-
ticle about the moderate Paracelsians,
‘‘Guintherius, Libavius and Sennert: The
Chemical Compromise in Early Modern
Medicine’’ in this volume, which originally
appeared in the festschrift he edited for
Walter Pagel in 1972.
In the books dominant section on chem-
istry and medicine in their national settings
the majority of the essays are concerned
with England. No less than eight chapters
are dedicated to English physicians and
chemists concerned with some aspect of
Paracelsianism. They cover characters as di-
verse as the Elizabethan magus, John Dee,
seventeenth-century scholars and physicians
such as Noah Biggs and John Woodall, not
to mention John Sherley and Edward Jor-
dan, concluding with Ebenezer Sibly, who
was active in the second half of the eight-
eenth century. This section concludes with
two chapters on alchemy in eighteenth cen-
tury France and one on iatrochemistry in
eighteenth century Portugal, which does lit-
tle to change the overall Anglo-Saxon fla-
vour of the whole volume.
For scholars interested in this field the
volume offers easy access to a considerable
number of Allen Debus’s essays and arti-
cles, many of which remain essential read-
ing for anyone working in history of early
modern medicine and iatrochemistry.
OLE PETER GRELL
VINCENT JULLIEN, Philosophie naturelle et
ge´ome´trie au XVII
e
sie`cle. Paris: Honore´
Champion, Paris, 2006. 477 pp., ISBN
2-7453-1363-0.
The author of this book has already pub-
lished many essays and books on seven-
374 BOOK REVIEWS
teenth-century history of science, dealing in
particular with Roberval, Pascal and Des-
cartes. This time he has decided to collect
in one volume several papers, which pre-
viously appeared in different reviews, and
have been partly revised.
The volume is divided into two parts: the
first part, entitled Philosophie naturelle,
consists of the following chapters: La que-
relle du vide; Le chemin de la lumie`re chez
Newton et Leibniz; La lumie`re de l’e´cole au
laboratoire; Silences cosmologiques; Rober-
val, syste`me du monde et autres controverses;
La the´orie de la connaissance de Roberval.
The second part, Mathe´matiques et philoso-
phie, includes: Quelques aspects du caracte`re
incontournable des E
´
le´ ments d’Euclide au
XVII
e
sie`cle; Les frontie`res dans les mathe´-
matiques carte´siennes; Chez Descartes l’intui-
tion est a` la de´duction comme la ge´ome´trie
est a` l’alge`bre; Essai d’interpre´tation d’un
passage des Anatomica de Descartes; Les in-
divisibles de Roberval, une ‘‘petite diffe´-
rence’’ de doctrine; Descartes-Roberval. Une
relation tumultueuse.
A simple look at the titles of the chapters
shows that the contents of the volume deal
with a wide range of topics. Consequently
the unity of the volume is to be found more
in the methodology the author proposes
rather than in the strict interrelation of the
subjects. The Introduction asserts this unity:
the author briefly discusses the concept of
‘‘scientific revolution’’, usually related to
the radical changes which occurred in the
historical period considered in the volume,
and clarifies his position in regard to the
never ending debate about ‘‘internalism’’
and ‘‘externalism’’. He wisely observes that
‘‘il y a` de´ ja` tant a` faire lorsqu’on se fixe pour
but – modeste peut eˆ tre aux yeux de cer-
tains – de comprendre les doctrines scienti-
fiques, de saisir les liaisons des argument
avance´ s, de repe´ rer les racines philosophi-
ques qui les nourrissent, que l’examen des
conditions historiques et sociales de leur
production m’apparait comme une tache
annexe, qui de´ passe mes compe´ tences et
demeure un peu en dehors – a` l’exte´ rieur
– de mes motivations’’ (pp. 26-27).
The character of the volume does not al-
low a discussion of all its contents. I will
concentrate on some special topics.
Roberval (un savant me´ connu, in the dis-
tinctive title of an old book by Le´ on Auger)
receives special attention in this volume.
His Aristarque, notoriously mocked by Des-
cartes, is the object of an attentive reading.
The ‘‘le´ ge` rete´ ’’ and the qualitative nature of
this book are compared with other books of
the same type, particularly Descartes’ Prin-
cipia that ‘‘se placent au meˆ me niveau de
technicite´ ’’ (p. 193). The structure of Ro-
berval’s book reflects ‘‘le choix d’un savant
au fait des aspects quantitatifs et observa-
tionnelles les plus re´ cents’’ (ibid.), but
avoids any technicality in order to address
a large audience.
The plea for a better consideration of the
exceptional mathematical results obtained
by Roberval is also evident in the chapter
devoted to a deep analysis of his doctrine
of indivisibles. Once again the great accom-
plishments he obtained were overshadowed
by the great figure of his contemporary,
Descartes, with his neat refusal (at least in
principle) of infinitesimal methods.
The last chapter of the book, devoted to
the personal relations between Descartes et
Roberval, opens with this statement: ‘‘Si ce
volume e´ tait un roman, on devrait y recon-
naıˆtre deux he´ ros principaux, Descartes et
Roberval’’ (p. 439). Actually, their beha-
viour, sometimes respectful, sometimes op-
posed, sometimes even convivial (p. 441),
beyond the biographical details, is a natural
key to highlight their scientific ideas. Both
men were proud and touchy, but when they
reacted one against the other, the ground of
the question was the dialectics between pro-
found ideas destined to promote the extra-
ordinary scientific development of the se-
venteenth century.
The ‘‘querelle du vide’’, described in the
chapter that opens the book sees as prota-
gonists the same ‘‘heroes’’ and, amongst
others, Pascal. This chapter, in which physi-
cal experiments are described mixed with
contrasting philosophical and metaphysical
ideas, cannot be summarized in few words,
but it is a worthy reading as are also the fol-
BOOK REVIEWS 375
lowing two chapters, devoted to light and
the investigations on its nature. This time
the protagonists are other giants: Newton,
Leibniz and Huygens.
The chapters of the volume specifically
devoted to Descartes, while deserving care-
ful reading, for the most part contain sub-
jects on which the author has just previously
had the occasion to express the bulk of his
ideas.
MASSIMO GALUZZI
LAUREN KASSELL, Medicine and Magic in Eli-
zabethan London. Simon Forman: Astrolo-
ger, Alchemist, and Physician. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2005. XVIII+281
pp., ISBN 0-19-927905-5 2005.
Simon Forman, the astrologer physician
of Elizabethan London, has received a re-
markable amount of attention from histor-
ians. Already in the nineteenth century
J.O. Halliwell edited some of Forman’s
manuscripts. In 1974, A.L. Rowse gave spe-
cial attention to Forman’s sexual exploits,
and just before the publication of the pre-
sent volume, Barbara Howard Traister’s
The Notorious Astrological Physician of Lon-
don: Works and Days of Simon Forman
(Chicago, 2001) provided the most coher-
ent portrait of Forman to date. It might
be said that the amount of attention paid
to Forman rather exceeds his significance
for the history of science, yet the cause lies
to large extent in the vast and remarkable
assemblage of papers, notes, work-diaries,
and unpublished (often unfinished) trea-
tises that survive from him. We owe this ar-
chival richness not only to Forman’s almost
obsessive use of pen and ink (and his per-
haps rather self-obsessed personality) but
also to the collecting fervor of the antiquar-
ian Elias Ashmole who acquired and pre-
served Forman’s papers.
Lauren Kassell’s book is the most recent
contribution to the mass of writings about
Simon Forman. The author leads the reader
through examples of the various sorts of
documents found among of Forman’s rich
manuscripts, working to display through
them the man, his activities, and his context
in Elizabethan London. We hear fascinating
details of his long-term feud with the Royal
College of Physicians, the body attempting
to control the practice of medicine in Lon-
don through licensing. Accounts of For-
man’s multiple attempts to fashion and refa-
shion himself in various ways (depending
on the time and his immediate concerns)
is of great interest and potentially a valuable
lesson to all who rely on manuscript materi-
als. Sections of the book dealing with For-
man’s dreams and his interpretations of
them, and how he routinely and repeatedly
cast horoscopes for answering virtually
every question he or his clients faced are
striking and highly illuminating. We are
treated likewise to a glimpse of how For-
man interacted with his patients, and who
his patients and visitors actually were.
(The minimal reference to Forman’s notor-
ious sexual liaisons with patients and others
in the chapter dealing with gender is slightly
puzzling, however.) The statistical analyses
of Forman’s patients Kassell draws from
the manuscripts are very revealing and valu-
able, and among some of the most impor-
tant and useful features of her book.
One of the challenges of dealing with a
Nachlass like Forman’s is how to organize,
wield, and present it as a historically reveal-
ing resource. It is easy to be swallowed up by
the sheer mass of documentation. Thus dis-
cernment on the part of the historian is
needed to avoid his accounts from slipping
into a descriptive miscellany. In Forman’s
case particularly, historical analysis and
broad contextualization is required to pre-
vent Forman’s own rather solipsistic per-
spective from being carried over into histor-
ical accounts of him. Kassell’s book does to
some extent recapitulate these features of
the archive, for the book’s organization
and narrative is rather loose and fragmented;
readers will get more out of Kassell’s study if
they first get their bearings by reading Trais-
ter’s better organized account. One may also
be led to forget that there was a much larger
Elizabethan world outside of Forman’s own
perceptions. Kassell’s claim that Forman
376 BOOK REVIEWS
‘‘produced one of the most comprehensive
archives of information about medicine, as-
trology, alchemy, and magic in early modern
England’’ (p. 3) is only partly true. The
cache of manuscripts is remarkably compre-
hensive, but only from Forman’s viewpoint,
not from that of Elizabethan London. For-
man’s views are decidedly idiosyncratic and
what we learn fromhim is, obviously, heavily
slanted towards the so-called ‘‘popular’’.
Thus Forman’s papers provide a remarkably
rich view of Forman himself, but it remains
the historian’s task to determine, analyze,
and argue how this view relates to the wider
context of the time. One can in fact discover
only a narrow slice of the general state and
content of medical and alchemical thought
in England ca. 1600 from Forman’s writings
and practices. The crucial distinction here
lies between howForman sawand presented
himself and how the historian is obliged to
analyze and contextualize him for the sake
of our greater historical understanding.
LAWRENCE M. PRINCIPE
WILHELM KU
¨
HLMANN, JOACHIM TELLE
(eds.), Der Fru¨hparacelsismus. Zweiter
Teil. Tu¨ bingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag,
2004. XII+1090 pp., ISBN 3484365897.
The Paracelsians, followers of Theo-
phrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, called
Paracelsus (1493/4-1541), were immensely
significant within the realms of 16
th
- and
17
th
-century natural philosophy and medi-
cine. Nevertheless, despite a number of illu-
minating studies by such scholars as Walter
Pagel and Allen Debus, these numerous
iconoclasts, best known for pioneering ia-
trochemistry (chemical medicine) and offer-
ing a forceful alternative to the university
curriculum steeped in the doctrines of Aris-
totle and Galen, have been marginalized in
the grand narratives of early modern intel-
lectual and cultural history. Addressing this
problem – which includes a dearth of well-
edited and accessible writings by Paracel-
sus’ early followers – Wilhelm Ku¨ hlmann
and Joachim Telle have brought rich new
insights into the Paracelsians, and early
modern thought and culture in general,
with the Corpus Paracelsisticum, Volume
II, in which 55 early modern German and
Latin texts by significant Paracelsians are
presented with the highest standard of phi-
lology and erudite commentary.
The volume’s texts are by early Paracelsus
votaries Michael Toxites, Georg Fedro, Mar-
cus Ambrosius, Laurentius Span von Spa-
nau, Balthasar Flo¨ ter, Gallus Etschenreutter,
Bartholoma¨ us Scultetus, Pietro Perna (three
of whose writings are edited by Carlos Gilly),
Gerhard Dorn, and Johann Albrecht. Mi-
chael Schu¨ tz, called Toxites (ca. 1515-
1581), dominates the volume, and this is
the most complete coverage of Toxites to
date. (See, for example, the salient autobio-
graphical information in text no. 58). Prior
to the CP, the outdated and questionable
1888 biography by C. Schmidt had been per-
haps the most detailed account of this princi-
pal Paracelsian, who was not only a cham-
pion of alchemical/Paracelsian medicine,
but also a prolific editor, publishing 30 of
Paracelsus’ works, second only to Adam
von Bodenstein (1528-1577), whose produc-
tion numbered 43. The editors also include
nine writings by the preeminent Paracelsian
spokesmen Dorn, who presented Paracel-
sianism as a ‘‘Christian’’ alternative to the
‘‘paganism’’ of school medicine – Dorn’s
‘‘chemical philosophy’’ features concepts
adopted from the Hermetic corpus and a
presentation of the Genesis creation story
in terms of chemical processes.
Indeed, the texts of the CP showcase the
Paracelsian synthesis of ‘‘Hermetic’’ and
esoteric traditions and religious novelty.
This is clear in the Paracelsians’ embrace
of Paracelsus’ alchemically prepared new
medicine, which they considered to be di-
vine, pure, and grounded in experience –
Balthasar Flo¨ ter even calls Paracelsus the
‘‘Monarcha Medicorum’’ (king of physi-
cians). The editors rightly identify such cel-
ebration as a cultish-religious portrait of
Paracelsus (p. 671). Witness too text
no. 77, Flo¨ ter an Georg Fugger in 1567
(discussed by the editors in their introduc-
11
BOOK REVIEWS 377
tory section on the heretical tendencies and
alliances of the Paracelsians, p. 28), wherein
it is clear that Paracelsus became regarded
among his followers not as a ‘‘new Luther’’,
but rather as a ‘‘dreimalgroßer’’ German –
an allusion to Hermes Trismegistus. Actu-
ally, in the CP one can trace Paracelsianism
as it became more and more linked with a
diverse variety of esoteric traditions, such
as Neoplatonism and Cabbalism, and in
an inter-confessional context that included
the tolerance and/or adoption of radical
theological notions, e.g., those of Caspar
Schwenckfeld. An example of a radical
theological dimension is text no. 48 from
Toxites’ 1571 edition of Paracelsus’ mag-
num opus, Astronomia Magna, in which
Toxites discusses Paracelsus’ exceptionally
idiosyncratic and heretical biblical exegesis,
and summarizes Paracelsus’ unique soterio-
logical system in which the mortal body of
humans (comprised of elemental and side-
real matter) is destined for eternal destruc-
tion with all other elemental and sidereal
corporeality. To provide for the resurrec-
tion body of Christians, Christ – in the
‘‘new creation’’ – created a new body,
which is received in baptism and nourished
by the eucharist. As Paracelsus elaborates in
the Astronomia Magna, both the eucharist
and resurrection body possess the same
subtle material as the body of Christ, whose
flesh is unlike the mortal flesh of humans.
Reading Toxites, one wonders about the ex-
tent to which the Paracelsians sought to
hide their heretical tendencies. This is only
one of the many questions that scholars will
face when analyzing and interpreting the
wealth of material in the CP.
The second volume of the Corpus Para-
celsisticum is a veritable goldmine. It is a
collection of richly edited texts accompa-
nied by an enlightening introduction and
adroit commentary. The volume is a tre-
mendously significant contribution that will
serve scholars well in their efforts to under-
stand early Paracelsianism and better grasp
the scientific, philosophical, medical, eso-
teric, and religious milieu of the early Scien-
tific Revolution.
DANE T. DANIEL
KATHLEEN P. LONG, Hermaphrodites in Re-
naissance Europe: Women and Gender in
the Early Modern World. Aldershot: Ash-
gate, 2006. X+268 pp., ISBN 0-7546
5609 8.
The figure of the hermaphrodite offers a
cluster of attributes that range from the
physical to the metaphysical, posing medi-
cal, legal, and philosophical issues that must
be defined and confronted anew in the dis-
cursive terms available at any particular
time and place; this makes it an ideal object
for interdisciplinary studies. Kathleen Long
offers a series of 8 essays (four of which
have been published in previous versions)
on this theme which appear to have been
written mainly in the 1990s and then some-
what awkwardly connected into a book for
Ashgate’s series Women and Gender in the
Early Modern World. They focus on the role
hermaphroditic bodies played in the ‘‘cul-
ture wars’’ of sixteenth-century France, a
time of crises summarized in the introduc-
tion as: the discovery of new world cultures;
the Reformation and its attendant violent
struggles; the consolidation of royal power
at the expense of traditional feudalism;
and the rise of empirical science, along with
a valorization of clinical practice over book-
ish learning. Each chapter centers around a
different textual genre and explores the sig-
nificance of the hermaphrodite in different
aspects of society, as reflected in the medi-
cal treatises of Ambroise Pare´ , Caspar Bau-
hin, and Jacques Duval, the philosophical
alchemy works of Clovis Hesteau de Nuyse-
ment, lyric poetry by The´ odore Agrippa
D’Aubigne´ , political pamphlets, and a sati-
rical novel by Thomas Artus (Description
de l’Isle des Hermaphrodites, ca. 1598).
What unites this choice of texts, says
Long, is the profoundly conservative yet
profoundly revolutionary effect that this
paradoxical figure engenders: by uniting
the fundamental division of the sexes into
one, the hermaphrodite both calls into
question ‘‘natural’’ boundaries between
male/female, active/passive, governing/ru-
led, while at the same time reasserting their
necessary opposition. By doing so, the her-
378 BOOK REVIEWS
maphrodite lends itself to representing all
struggles between stridently opposing
forces. Depending on its use and context,
it may consequently appear as the evil to
be eliminated in order to re-establish social
or natural orders in a state of crisis (as is the
case of the political pamphlets condemning
the ‘‘royal hermaphrodite’’ Henri III of
France) as easily as it may suggest an open-
ing to creative synthesis and rebirth based
on new configurations of the gendered
poles (as the figure appears in the lyric po-
etry of the poets belonging to his court).
The fluidity of exchange between male
and female in alchemical works by Paracel-
sus, like the difficulty of establishing a sin-
gle gender for some individuals with partial-
ly developed genitalia of both sexes,
implicitly called into question the natural-
ness of the binary opposition. This thesis
is clearly worked out in the legal case of Ma-
rin LeMarcis who was saved from being
burned alive thanks to Jacques Duval’s em-
pirical observations, in direct opposition to
the opinion of the other medical experts
who were called to testify, based on distant
visual clues suggested by ancient sources ra-
ther than on tactile evidence (a case discus-
sed by Michel Foucault in his Les Anor-
maux lectures given in 1974). By revealing
the inadequacy of the two-sex model when
faced with a ‘‘real’’ intersexual body, the
hermaphrodite pointed to the ‘‘imaginary’’
nature of the sexes, to the cultural, arbitrary
dimension of sexual designation in itself.
This is its intrinsically revolutionary effect.
What these texts ultimately have in com-
mon, then, explains Long, is that they use
words, images, and categories to demon-
strate the resistance of the body to significa-
tion and in order to subvert the politics of
interpretation: the gap between theory and
reality demonstrates the ‘‘inefficacy of theo-
retical discourse’’ (p. 23).
What better theoretical discourse to use
for analyzing the historical hermaphrodite
than contemporary gender theory, then?
Ideally, according to this logic, a study of
hermaphrodites in Renaissance Europe
should serve to reflect back on the postmo-
dern gender theories that the author is pro-
posing, in the same way the texts of the past
serve to illuminate the gender theories of
the sixteenth-century authors being exami-
ned. Unfortunately, this ideal is not fulfilled
in Long’s exposition: the theoretical appa-
ratus and basic definitions of the key terms
she employs, such as ‘‘gender’’, are scarcely
alluded to, apart from occasional citations
from Judith Lorber’s Paradoxes of Gender
(1994), Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble
(1990), and Donna Harraway’s Cyborgs, Si-
mians, and Women (1989), all of which
speak for a previous scholarly generation
that came to the forefront in the Anglo-Sa-
xon world during the socio-political crisis of
feminism.
The outdatedness of Long’s interpretative
discourse does not respond to our needs for
a renewed understanding of hermaphrodites
in our liquid, fluid, artificially natural ‘‘pos-
thuman’’ era. The lack of a fully developed
sense of historicization and historical metho-
dology also undermines the interdisciplinary
aims of the study: it is neither theoretically
adventurous nor historically rigorous, thus
remaining of interest primarily to literary
scholars of sixteenth-century France.
ZAKIYA HANAFI
AD MESKENS, Joannes della Faille S.J.: Ma-
thematics, Modesty, Missed Opportuni-
ties. Brussels and Rome: Istituto Storico
Belga di Roma (Commercial distribution
Brepols Publishers), 2005. 177 pp., ISBN
90-74461-53-0.
In his partially successful struggle to se-
cure mathematics a prominent place in the
Jesuit curriculum, Christoph Clavius, pro-
fessor of mathematics at the Collegio Roma-
no from 1565 to 1612, particularly insisted
on the utility of the discipline. The book
by Ad Meskens, which is devoted to the
Flemish Jesuit Joannes della Faille (1597-
1652), provides us with a vivid example of
the variety of intellectual and practical tasks
to which a seventeenth-century mathemati-
cian could be called.
BOOK REVIEWS 379
Born into a wealthy family of Antwerp as
the first of twelve children, Joannes became
a novice at the Mechlin Jesuit seminar in
1613. He subsequently studied at the newly
opened school of mathematics at Antwerp,
where he was a pupil of Gregorio a Sancto
Vincentio. After a few years of teaching at
the Jesuit colleges of Doˆ le and Louvain, he
became in 1629 professor at Madrid’s Impe-
rial College. In 1637 della Faille was appoin-
ted first cosmographer to the Council of the
Indies, with the task of compiling astrono-
mical tables, navigational routes and geogra-
phical maps, and from 1639 was also asked
to teach fortification. In 1641, King Philip
IV of Spain made him military adviser to
the Duke of Alba, and in 1646 appointed
him as tutor of his legitimized son, Don Juan
of Austria, whom della Faille accompanied
on numerous military expeditions. In 1650
della Faille followed Don Juan to Barcelona,
where he died in November 1652. During
his eventful life, he published only one
book, the De centro gravitatis (1632), but ac-
cording to Sancto Vincentio he wrote as ma-
ny as 30 treatises, some of which have been
retraced by Ad Meskens in the archives of
the della Faille family.
Ad Meskens’ book consists of six chap-
ters, of which the first three reconstruct
the story of the rich family della Faille and
narrate Joannes’ eventful life against the
background of religious and political con-
flicts. The story Meskens tells is indeed
one of Mathematics, modesty and missed op-
portunities, as the subtitle states. Della Fail-
le is described as a passionate mathemati-
cian, but also as a devout man who,
according to the Society’s rules, lived in
‘‘modesty, humility and self-abnegation’’,
(p. 63) sacrificing individual glory for the
glory of the order. His life was also charac-
terized by moments of frustration: His acti-
vity as a cosmographer of the Council of the
Indies was not very successful (pp. 54-55);
he was disappointed by the officers of the
Spanish army who knew nothing about for-
tification; as a military adviser to the Duke
of Alba he felt totally useless (p. 57); and
Don Juan never reciprocated Joannes’ reve-
rence for him (p. 125).
But Ad Meskens seems to believe that
the most important opportunity della Faille
missed was that of becoming a renowned
mathematician. In chapters 4 to 6 Meskens
analyses della Faille’s manuscript and pub-
lished work, coming to the conclusion that
as a mathematician Joannes was probably
on a par with Desargues and Pascal, but
that due to his modest character and to
the lack of contacts with contemporary
mathematicians, he did not gain the reputa-
tion he deserved.
According to Ad Meskens, della Faille
would deserve a prominent place in the his-
tory of mathematics, because he made im-
portant advancements in the theory of conic
sections and even preceded Braikenridge in
the formulation of an important theorem,
which is a special case of Pascal’s Mystic
Hexagram Theorem. Given that della Fail-
le’s manuscripts ‘‘only give theorems with-
out proofs’’, (p. 83) Ad Meskens is con-
strained to invent his own proofs, which
he deliberately formulates in a anachronistic
language. Although being convinced ‘‘that
della Faille proved these theorems by purely
synthetic geometrical methods’’, (p. 104)
faced with the impossibility of reconstruct-
ing how he proceeded, Meskens has
decided to make use of analytic geometry.
Such an approach makes it difficult for
the reader to assess the value of della Fail-
le’s work, all the more because Meskens
seems to have a very slender textual basis
for his speculations. At p. 124, he maintains
that della Faille must have used some kind
of projective geometry, because this was
the only way to prove theorems on general
conic sections. But if one goes back to p.
87, one reads that ‘‘the manuscript does
not contain any proof, which leaves us with
the question whether della Faille was able to
prove these theorems for a general conic
section, or whether he proved them for
each conic section in turn’’.
Although the book is based on accurate
archival research and contains useful infor-
mation, the reader is left with the impres-
sion that Meskens cedes too much to the
tentation of writing about ‘‘a Spanish math-
ematical tradition that could have been, not
one that was’’ (p. 123).
380 BOOK REVIEWS
It also seems that the book has not been
carefully proofread. There are quite a few
typos, some sentences are unintelligible
(e.g., p. 108: ‘‘Equilibrium is explained by
the position of the weights on the lever
and consequently the positions of the
weights on the lever’’), and della Faille is
once said to have died in 1652 (p. 62) and
once in 1651 (p. 123).
CARLA RITA PALMERINO
WILLIAM R. NEWMAN, LAWRENCE M. PRIN-
CIPE (eds.), George Starkey: Alchemical la-
boratory notebooks and correspondence.
Chicago: The University of Chicago
press, 2004. XXXVI+352 pp., ISBN
0226577015.
George Starkey (1628-1665) was born in
Bermuda, graduated at Harvard, and in
1650 settled in London, where he suddenly
impressed his friends and correspondents
for his chemical skills, and for his extraor-
dinary knowledge of Jan Baptista van Hel-
mont’s works. Starkey published a number
of chemical and medical tracts and also
wrote several highly influential alchemical
works that circulated under the name of
Eirenaeus Philalethes. He became a mem-
ber of the Hartlib Circle, practiced medi-
cine, sold his chemical remedies, and died
in the Great Plague of London, having con-
tracted the plague while treating the victims
of the disease. It was through Robert Child
(a correspondent of Samuel Hartlib) that
Starkey met Boyle at the beginning of
1651. Since 1651, Boyle and Starkey colla-
borated and corresponded on chemical
and medical themes. Their collaboration
ended in 1653, when Boyle went to Ireland.
In 1653 Starkey was to debtor’s prison
twice and in 1654 Hartlib described him
as ‘‘altogether degenerated’’. With Boyle
Starkey worked at producing the Alkahest
(i.e., van Helmont’s universal solvent), the
philosophers’ stone and ens veneris – a cop-
per compound they believed to be an effica-
cious medicine. The collaboration with Ro-
bert Boyle, which is thoroughly investigated
by Newman and Principe in Alchemy Tried
in the Fire (Chicago, 2002), is the core of
the present book, containing Starkey’s ex-
tant laboratory notes and letters to Boyle
(1651-1652) – already published in the first
volume of The Correspondence of Robert
Boyle (London 2001) – as well as letters to
Samuel Hartlib and to some of his associ-
ates, namely, John Winthrop Jr,, Frederick
Clodius and Jan Moriaen. The first docu-
ment is a letter to John Winthrop Jr, dated
1648, testifying to Starkey’s early chemical
investigations while he was in New Eng-
land, the last document (dated 1663) being
a set of three letters Starkey wrote to his
friend Philip Frith of Rye, bearing fresh evi-
dence of Starkey’s medical practice. La-
boratory notebooks, covering a period from
1651 to 1660, contain a valuable account of
Starkey’s alchemical experimental investiga-
tions aimed to produce ‘‘chymical arcana’’,
namely the philosophers’ stone, the philoso-
phical mercury, the alkahest, the volatilisa-
tion of alkalies. As the editors point out
(p. XIV), the extant notebooks (which repre-
sent a small fraction of the originals) show
that Starkey spent more time in the pre-
paration of chemical remedies and distilled
oils than he did in his alchemical pursuits.
This does not mean that alchemy played a
marginal part in Starkey’s laboratory work,
since, as the editors maintain (p. XVII), this
might be the effect of ‘‘selective preserva-
tion of the notebooks... accentuated by the
greater interest that later collectors would
have had in notebooks containing such pro-
cesses [i.e. the preparation of the philoso-
phers’ stone]’’. Though the extant docu-
ments provide important information on
Starkey’s laboratory work and testify to his
chemical skills, we must be cautious before
coming to conclusions about the role he
played in Boyle’s chemical research. In Al-
chemy Tried in the Fire (which is a compa-
nion to the present book) the editors
claimed that when Starkey met Boyle, the
former was a skilled chemist, while the lat-
ter was ‘‘a newcomer not only to chymistry
and experimental philosophy, but to realm
of learning as well’’ (p. 222). But Starkey’s
BOOK REVIEWS 381
extant correspondence with Boyle does not
support such a claim, and Boyle’s early let-
ters (notably those of 1648) bear evidence
that he started his chemical investigations
before meeting Starkey. In addition, Star-
key’s surviving letters is only a small portion
of their correspondence, as most of the let-
ters Starkey wrote weekly to Boyle are lost,
as are Boyle’s numerous letters to Starkey.
Besides writing a general introduction to
the entire collection of documents (as well
as a useful glossary), the editors preface
each document and provide explanatory
notes with references to Starkey’s published
works. The editors’ transcription and Eng-
lish translation of the documents (most of
them unpublished) are excellent. This book
is an important contribution both to the
history of alchemy and to the history of
early modern experimental practice.
ANTONIO CLERICUZIO
KATHARINE PARK, Secrets of Women. Gen-
der, Generation, and the Origins of Hu-
man Dissection. New York: The MIT
Press, 2006. 419 pp., ISBN 1-890951-
67-6.
Katharine Park’s book on the beginnings
of human anatomy in late medieval and Re-
naissance Italy brings together several of her
earlier studies on this topic and adds much
new material. She places women at the cen-
ter of the development of human anatomy
rather than, as it has often been the case,
on its sidelines. Enormously learned and
clearly written, the book provocatively in-
termingles accounts of the dissections of
holy women and aristocratic wives with
the more familiar texts of surgeons and phy-
sicians, and shows that dissection played an
important role in changing views of wo-
men’s bodies and in involving male physi-
cians and surgeons in obstetrical care.
Park’s introduction explains her method:
by looking at all the settings, not only aca-
demic ones, in which female bodies were
opened between the late thirteenth and
the mid-sixteenth centuries in Italy, she
seeks to broaden and redefine the practice
of anatomy in this period. She argues that
the inherent mysteriousness of women’s
bodies and their functions made them espe-
cially prized subjects of dissection, and that
this attention to women’s bodies led dissec-
tion to become a more widely used practice
to learn about the body in general. Her dis-
cussion of these topics leads also to a broad-
er account of the health and health care of
elite women.
Park’s first chapter focuses on the dissec-
tions of two holy women in the early four-
teenth century, Chiara of Montefalco and
Margherita of Citta` di Castello. Park makes
short work of the myth of Christian taboos
on dissections. She uses Chiara’s canoniza-
tion hearing in 1320 as well as various con-
temporary accounts of the women’s lives to
document the rare practice of ‘‘holy anato-
my’’, which established the women’s sancti-
ty by means of miraculous evidence found
in their bodies. Park argues that this practi-
ce – only performed on women in this pe-
riod – helped to regularize the performance
of human anatomy and tells us much about
contemporary views of women’s bodies.
Park then examines several manuscript
treatises on female anatomy to outline what
was known about women’s bodies in late
medieval Italy and how this knowledge
changed. Following Monica Green, she ar-
gues that learned writers increasingly de-
fined women in terms of their reproductive
functions. The ‘‘secrets of women’’ litera-
ture of the fourteenth and fifteenth centu-
ries subsequently influenced the first
printed anatomical texts such as the Fasicu-
lo de medicina of 1494, whose first illustra-
tion was of a uterus.
From the late fifteenth century onward,
autopsies of aristocratic Florentine women
were performed. Park situates these in the
context of concerns about inheritance and
generation, and also demonstrates the deep
involvement of male practitioners in the
health care of these women. While the ac-
tual birth may have been attended by a mid-
wife, other forms of obstetrical care were
increasingly assigned to male physicians,
382 BOOK REVIEWS
and various learned theories about genera-
tion and inheritance contested for attention
with popular ideas. The relative roles of
male and female in generation were by no
means agreed upon, however important
these were to dynastic considerations.
Park returns to ‘‘holy anatomy’’ in her
fourth chapter to reveal how much has
changed by the sixteenth century. Unlike
Chiara, who had been opened by her fellow
nuns, the corpse of the mystic Elena Du-
glioli was subjected in 1520 to multiple in-
spections by learned men, including the
anatomist Jacopo Barengario of Carpi.
While Chiara’s heart had been found to
have a cross incised in it, the evidence of
Elena’s sanctity was far more disputed:
her breasts were repeatedly dissected to de-
termine whether they really produced milk
after her death. Park’s further discussion
of Barengario leads to an account of Vesa-
lius in the final chapter, and here the focus
on women brings a new dimension to this
much-studied figure.
This is an important book that substan-
tially rewrites the early history of anatomy.
It brings together a wide range of historical
evidence, including iconographic evidence,
to argue convincingly for the centrality of
women to this history, and it is the cumula-
tive effect of this evidence rather than its in-
dividual elements that is most telling. The
book is well produced, with a copious bib-
liography.
ANITA GUERRINI
ALESSANDRO PASTORE, Le regole dei corpi.
Medicina e disciplina nell’Italia moderna.
Bologna: Il Mulino, 2006. 246 pp., ISBN
88-15-11277-4.
Alessandro Pastore vanta un’ampia cono-
scenza della letteratura medico-giuridica del
XVI e XVII secolo, e riunisce qui una serie
di interventi, tenuti in sedi disparate tra il
1997 e il 2002, che considerano questa let-
teratura sotto diverse angolazioni, ma non
senza un’unita` complessiva del volume assi-
curata da un filo conduttore ispirato a Fou-
cault: la ricerca dei nessi tra sapere medico e
disciplina sia del corpo politico, sia dei cor-
pi fisici. Si parte da una rassegna di testi che
trattano del corpo politico secondo la meta-
fora organicista di analogia col corpo uma-
no: metafora tipica del pensiero conservato-
re, ma esaminata affiancando a filosofi
politici come Montaigne, Bodin e Bacone,
e a medici noti come William Harvey, anche
nomi meno prevedibili, come il ferrarese
Arcangelo Piccolomini (1586) e lo svedese
Glydenstolpe (1647).
Al saggio introduttivo, che menziona an-
che testi (Giuseppe Liceti, Jean Riolan) in
cui si esalta l’ordine e la gerarchia degli or-
gani nel corpo umano, segue una prima par-
te sui rapporti tra medicina e diritto. Un
primo tema sono le norme per il ‘‘governo
della peste’’, per mantenere la disciplina du-
rante il suo infierire e dopo, quando le plebi
sembrano alzare la testa: norme proposte da
opere a stampa sia di medici, da Girolamo
Previdelli (1524), e Giovan Francesco Ripa
(1559) al piu` noto Paolo Zacchia, sia di po-
litici, come il legato pontificio a Bologna
Gerolamo Gastaldi (1684). Pastore tratta
poi delle norme suggerite da medici (da An-
tonio Cavallo e dal chirurgo Antonio Filip-
po Ciucci, di nuovo a Zacchia, al siciliano
Fortunato Fedeli, all’imolese Giovan Batti-
sta Codronchi) ai giudici e ai politici per di-
stinguere le ‘‘finte’’ malattie di mendicanti e
vagabondi, e per smascherare quei falsi ma-
lati che possono fingere sia per sfuggire alla
tortura dei magistrati penali, sia per simula-
re la santita` , la possessione diabolica o la
pazzia, per sfuggire alla tortura degli inqui-
sitori di fede. Segue un capitolo sul contri-
buto alle indagini giudiziarie offerto dalle
perizie medico-legali sui corpi di reato, dai
casi di sospetto infanticidio, alle perizie del-
le levatrici nelle cause per deflorazione o
per violenza: un campo nel quale Pastore
nota come gia` emergano elementi di espe-
rienza fondata sull’osservazione, in un’eta`
ancora intrisa di pensiero pre-scientifico an-
che nei testi medici e medico-legali (dei
quali, forse, si sottorappresenta talvolta la ti-
pica connessione seicentesca tra scienza e
magia). Infine, nel rapporto tra medicina e
giustizia il quinto capitolo tratta del ruolo
BOOK REVIEWS 383
dei medici nel giudicare l’attitudine fisica de-
gli inquisiti alla tortura prima e dopo Verri e
Beccaria: si passa dalla piena identificazione
del medico col giudice, nei testi di Zacchia
e Prospero Farinacci – entrambi romani, in-
fluenzati dalle procedure del Sant’Uffizio for-
se piu` di quanto riconosca Pastore (insieme
agli storici del diritto che han studiato l’asce-
sa seicentesca del diritto criminale) ad autori
ambigui nel limitare ma non proscrivere la
tortura, dopo Thomasius e ai tempi di Becca-
ria; per giungere all’ormai chiara distinzione
tra peccati e reati, diritto penale e canonico,
che compie il noto medico legale Francesco
Puccinotti (1835), che rifiuta di trattare temi
come ‘‘il debito coniugale, la magia, l’osses-
sione, i miracoli, il digiuno ecclesiastico, e in-
fine la tortura’’ (p. 120).
Una seconda parte del volume affronta la
disciplina del ‘‘corpo’’ o corporazione medi-
ca, analizzando composizione e criteri di se-
lezione dei Collegi medici, con un’acuta
analisi di quell’epoca di transizione in cui
prima emergono, da statuti e matricole, pre-
senze e influenze eterodosse; e poi, a partire
dal 1560-70, sono introdotte insieme norme
per assoggettare i medici ai confessori (se-
condo il dettato di Pio IV e Pio V) e per
escludere, onde tutelare l’integrita` e l’onore
dalla corporazione, sia i sospetti d’eresia, sia
gli ‘‘infamati’’ da mestieri vili e ‘‘meccanici’’.
La terza parte infine tratta degli ospedali,
sia dal punto di vista dei malati che accolgo-
no, sia delle basi finanziarie e del quadro
istituzionale. Anche qui, oltre al richiamo
puntuale a una letteratura medico-giuridica
che l’autore conosce a fondo, ritorna il filo
conduttore di tutto il libro: i grandi ospedali
cittadini costituiti da meta` ’400, ed anche
reclusori ‘‘speciali’’, come i conservatori
per donne ‘‘pericolanti’’, e luoghi pii per
sovvenire alla poverta` contro il prestito
ebraico, come i Monti di Pieta` , si presenta-
no come luoghi per rinchiudere poveri e
marginali, provvedere a situazioni di perico-
lo medico-sociale, mantenere la disciplina e
l’ordine del ‘‘corpo’’ politico. E
`
ancora lon-
tano il tempo in cui serviranno ‘‘soltanto’’ a
rinchiudere e curare corpi malati.
ELENA BRAMBILLA
VOLKER REMMERT, Widmung, Welterkla¨-
rung und Wissenschaftslegitimierung. Ti-
telbilder und ihre Funktionen in der Wis-
senschaftlichen Revolution. Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. 267 pp.,
ISBN 3-447-05337-2.
For a long time, outside art history fron-
tispieces were regarded as a mere didactic
extension of the text or as a curious addi-
tion that one leafed past to reach the con-
tent of the book. Volker Remmert’s work,
which registers the most important seven-
teenth-century works, has now developed
a systematic method of evaluation that over-
comes this narrow approach. The material
consists of about seventy title pages mostly
involving the works of five authors or group
of authors: Christoph Clavius, Galileo Gali-
lei, Johannes Kepler, Christoph Scheiner,
and the large number of Jesuitically influ-
enced scientists of that time.
It cannot be emphasized strongly enough
that Remmert consistently avoids using the
pictures in an illustrative sense, but evalu-
ates them as a substantial part of the histor-
ical process. His chief witness is Giambat-
tista Vico, who tied the frontispiece of his
Scienza Nova (1744) to the goal of providing
not only a support for memory, but also a
guideline for reading. The picture was in
equal measure avant-garde and rear-guard
of the content.
This becomes paradigmatically clear in
the image struggle over Copernicanism.
With a view to the title page of Christoph
Clavius’ Opera Mathematica (1611-12), Rem-
mert documents, initially astonishingly,
that it did not become a bone of contention
through the intervention of theologians, but
of iconography. The Copernican certainty
of imagery opposed this. The examples
range from Kepler’s self-definition as a Co-
pernican, which he proclaimed more
strongly in his pictures than in his published
texts, to John Wilkin’s anonymously pub-
lished discourse of 1640, which practically
propagated Copernicanism on its copper
engraving title page.
Moving between them is Galileo’s pictor-
ial language. The analysis of the Saggiatore
384 BOOK REVIEWS
and the Dialogo frontispieces and of the his-
tory of their reception, in particular, can be
regarded as milestones in a science-histori-
cal iconology. Remmert shows how, in Ste-
fan della Bella’s frontispiece of the Opere
(1655-56), the figure of Copernicus was
melded with the features of the aged Gali-
leo in order to present him as a pupil of As-
tronomia as well as a partisan of the Medici,
whose crown radiates as a heliocentric pla-
netary system.
From the Jesuit side, which naturally re-
jected or had to reject Copernicanism,
Christoph Scheiner’s Rosa ursine (1630)
stands out; its props were taken up in Atha-
nasius Kircher’s Ars magna lucis et umbrae
(1646). The frontispiece of Giovanni Battis-
ta Riccioli’s Almagestum novum (1651),
whose blatant rejection of heliocentrism
seems to leave no questions open, is ana-
lyzed all the more painstakingly in detail
by the author whose analysis of Astraea
and Argus is particularly impressive.
The chapter on the frontispieces of the
mathematical art of war explores a pre-
viously almost unexamined corpus that suc-
cessfully demonstrates the mathematization
of the sciences, quite apart from the cosmo-
logical disputes.
In a masterstroke, Remmert analyzes the
connection between Atlas and Hercules, as
they appear in Johannes Bayer’s copper en-
graving for Uranometria’s title page (1603),
and Brahe’s research island utopia Hven, in
which King Atlas carried a huge armillary
sphere. The author is able to identify the
nose of Bayer’s Hercules/Atlas with Brahe’s
nose prosthesis, based on a number of simi-
lar nose forms indicating their prosthetic
character. With this conversion of a disfig-
urement into a trademark of Brahe’s figure,
appears an image- and media-conscious
herald of astronomy appears as the counter-
image to the illumination of the personal
union of Copernicus and Galileo.
As one of the most genteel and richest
Danes of his time, Brahe knew only too well
that astronomy was a court art that could
not relinquish patronage; Galileo would
make highly effective use of this by donat-
ing Jupiter’s moons to the Medici. In later
astronomical copper engraving title pages,
Remmert is also able to show the striving
to present a series of ancestors of the re-
spective patron of the work going back to
Classical Antiquity, in order to place the
‘‘new science’’ in the traditional framework
of claims and thus to protect it.
The analysis of Andreas Cellarius’ Har-
monia macrocosmica (1661) again shows
the influence of frontispieces in spreading
the Copernican world-view. Here Remmert
penetrates to the core of the problem of vi-
sual argumentation by reconstructing a net-
work of visual quotations. The author is
able to use all of this in his virtuoso final
chapter, in which, in the style of a libera-
tion, he follows the Jesuitical ‘‘cheerful
game with the images’’. Pictures do not re-
fer solely to what is to be made visible, but
also and above all to their own history his
interplay between timeliness and pictorial
history, Remmert concludes, lies the pic-
tures’ genuine and unmistakable contribu-
tion in this epoch of scientific revolution,
in which they were able, in a double game,
to propagate the new as well as generate
continuity and thus to play a role in the
emotional household of the contemporary
mentality. When Remmert repeatedly
speaks of a ‘‘legitimizing’’ character of pic-
tures, this basic feature – and this is my only
objection to his profound opus – conflicts
with his thesis that pictures effect funda-
mentally on their own. A remnant of a ‘‘ser-
ving’’ function, against which Remmert ar-
gues so convincingly, remains virulent here
and only here.
The author took up strings of research as
founded by the Warburg school, the Aa-
chen school of ‘‘secular iconography’’ as it
is assembled in Hans Holla¨ nder’s colossal
anthology Erkenntnis, Erfindung, Konstruk-
tion (2000) and the intense research on
images of the Herzog August Bibliothek in
Wolfenbu¨ ttel, and raised them to a new le-
vel. Remmert has thus succeeded in effect-
ing a school-forming convergence of science
history and art history.
HORST BREDEKAMP
BOOK REVIEWS 385
GEORGE SALIBA, Islamic Science and the Ma-
king of the European Renaissance. Cam-
bridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2007.
XI+315 pp., ISBN-13: 978-0-262-19557-7.
Au sujet de l’histoire de la science arabe,
de son e´ mergence et, subse´ quemment, du
roˆ le joue´ par l’islam dans l’histoire ge´ ne´ rale
des sciences, il existe un discours tre` s
re´ pandu qui se fonde presque invariable-
ment sur les conside´ rations suivantes: d’ori-
gine be´ douine et sans passe´ culturel, la civi-
lisation arabo-musulmane n’aurait pu
de´ velopper par elle-meˆ me aucune science
si elle n’avait pas e´ te´ mise en contact avec
d’autres, plus ve´ ne´ rables, comme la
grecque, l’iranienne ou l’indienne; elle sut
s’approprier leurs sciences par l’entremise
d’un mouvement de traduction sans pre´ ce´ -
dent qui coı¨ncida avec les 150 ou 200 pre-
mie` res anne´ es du califat ‘abba¯ sside; cette
entreprise fut sinon centralise´ e du moins
favorise´ e par les califes eux-meˆ mes, au pre-
mier rang desquels figure al-Mamu¯ n (813-
833), ce´ le` bre pour son soutien a` la pense´ e
rationalisante des Mut
.
azilites; l’aˆ ge d’or
des sciences arabes s’acheva vers la fin du
11
e
sie` cle, lorsque culmina avec Ghaza¯ lı ¯ la
re´ action anti-scientifique des the´ ologiens
orthodoxes de l’islam; graˆ ce aux traduc-
tions latines re´ alise´ es au 12
e
sie` cle, l’essen-
tiel de ce que la civilisation arabo-musul-
mane avait pu transmettre, parfois meˆ me
en le perfectionnant, fut pre´ serve´ en
Occident. C’est aux insuffisances d’un tel
discours, qualifie´ de «Classical Narrative»,
et a` la ne´ cessite´ de le remplacer par un
autre, plus proche de la re´ alite´ historique
et appele´ «Alternative Narrative», que
George Saliba convie ses lecteurs dans
cet ouvrage savant, audacieux et re´ solu-
ment provocateur. Le premier chapitre
(«Question of Beginnings I») dresse l’inven-
taire des proble` mes que pose la «Classical
Narrative» en ce qui concerne les origines
de la science en islam. S’appuyant sur une
large documentation et traquant jusqu’au
moindre indice, l’auteur met en avant
notamment le haut niveau de perfectionne-
ment atteint par certains scientifiques de´ ja`
en place au moment de la re´ volution ‘abba¯ s-
side, la qualite´ de la terminologie scienti-
fique arabe utilise´ e de` s les premie` res tra-
ductions, l’introduction a` date ancienne de
disciplines nouvelles comme l’alge` bre ou la
pre´ cision remarquable de certains instru-
ments d’observation. Au soi-disant de´ clin
des sciences arabes a` partir du 11
e
sie` cle,
il oppose la varie´ te´ et l’originalite´ intrin-
se` que d’œuvres poste´ rieures comme celles
de Jazarı¯ (m. en 1205) pour la me´ canique,
d’Ibn al-Nafı¯s (m. en 1288) pour la me´ de-
cine ou de Kama¯ l al-Dı¯n al-Fa¯ risı ¯ (m. en
1320) pour l’optique. Le deuxie` me chapitre
(«Question of Beginnings II») vise a` mettre
en place cette «Alternative Narrative», dont
l’auteur veut retrouver le te´ moignage le plus
e´ loquent dans l’un des re´ cits qu’al-Nadı ¯m
rapporte au sujet de l’essor des sciences en
islam, au septie` me chapitre de son Fihrist:
ce re´ cit fait e´ tat de la traduction du diwa¯n
(entendu ici au sens de bagage scientifique
et technique requis des kutta¯b dans l’admi-
nistration gouvernementale) du persan vers
l’arabe a` l’e´ poque du calife umayyade ’Abd
al-Malik (724-743). Cette arabisation du
syste` me administratif aurait eu pour im-
plication, si l’on en croit l’auteur, une for-
midable concurrence, elle-meˆ me source
d’e´ mulation scientifique, entre ceux qui,
d’ascendance grecque ou persane, mono-
polisaient les postes jusqu’alors et les
nouveaux venus arabes que la re´ forme
d’ ’Abd-al-Malik favorisait de´ sormais.
L’hypothe` se est nouvelle. Elle est aussi
inte´ ressante, dans la mesure ou` , s’affran-
chissant au maximum des re´ cits le´ gendaires
qui fondent la «Classical Narrative» – on
pense e´ videmment ici au fameux reˆ ve d’al-
Ma’mu¯ n, que le meˆ me al-Nadı¯m rapporte
imme´ diatement apre` s –, elle tente de four-
nir une explication rationnelle et historique-
ment cre´ dible du phe´ nome` ne. Mais il faut
bien avouer que l’hypothe` se est aussi fra-
gile, car elle s’appuie sur un te´ moignage
dont la valeur re´ elle paraıˆt ici avoir e´ te´ sin-
gulie` rement surestime´ e. Les trois chapitres
suivants («Encounter with the Greek
Scientific Tradition»; «Islamic Astronomy
Defines Itself: The Critical Innovations»;
«Science between Philosophy and
Religion: The Case of Astronomy»), de
386 BOOK REVIEWS
caracte` re plus technique, nous rame` nent en
un terrain plus suˆ r. Centrant le propos sur
l’astronomie, ‘‘reine des sciences’’ et consi-
de´ re´ e a` ce titre comme une sorte de mode` le
pour toutes les autres, l’auteur multiplie les
exemples pour de´ montrer, d’une part, que
le mode` le ptole´ me´ en fut non pas simple-
ment rec¸ u en islam mais critique´ , et cela
depuis quasiment les origines et, d’autre
part, que ces doutes et critiques finirent
par toucher jusqu’aux fondements the´ ori-
ques de ce mode` le: a` l’image des syste` mes
mis en place par Qub al-Dı¯n al-Shı ¯ra¯ zı ¯ (m.
en 1311) ou par le tre` s ‘tardif’ Shams al-
Dı¯n al-Khafrı¯ (m. en 1550), les astronomes
musulmans ne se satisfaisaient plus d’un
mode` le capable seulement de rendre
compte de l’observation; il leur fallait aussi
que ce mode` le fuˆ t en accord avec les pre´ -
suppose´ s cosmologiques de l’univers, ce
qui les amenait parfois a` remettre en cause
Aristote lui-meˆ me. Au passage, Saliba
re´ fute l’ide´ e tre` s ‘europe´ enne’ selon laquelle
science et religion auraient forme´ en islam
un couple conflictuel et pre´ judiciable au
progre` s. Les deux derniers chapitres
(«Islamic Science and Renaissance Europe:
The Copernican Connection» et «Age of
Decline: The Fecundity of Astronomical
Thought») reviennent en de´ tail sur la ques-
tion du pre´ tendu de´ clin des sciences arabes
a` partir du 12
e
sie` cle et sur ce que l’auteur
conside` re lui-meˆ me comme l’ouverture
d’une nouvelle ‘‘boı ˆte de Pandore’’: en l’oc-
currence, le nombre sans cesse grandissant
d’indices prouvant qu’une parente´ existe
entre les textes coperniciens et certains
ante´ ce´ dents arabes comme Nat
.
ı¯r al-Dı¯n al-
t
.
u¯ sı ¯ (m. en 1274) ou Ibn al-Sha¯ t
.
ir (m. en
1375) et, par conse´ quent, le besoin de
re´ e´ valuer le roˆ le d’interme´ diaire potentielle-
ment joue´ par des savants arabisants de la
Renaissance tels qu’Andreas Alpagus (m.
en 1522) et surtout Guillaume Postel (m.
en 1581). Dans l’Introduction, Saliba
affirme que ses efforts n’auront pas e´ te´
vains si son livre parvenait a` ‘‘faire une
petite bre` che dans la fac¸ on qu’ont les gens
de penser la nature des sciences arabes et
islamiques’’ (p. xi). Il est fort a` parier qu’il
y re´ ussira bien au-dela` de cette espe´ rance.
GODEFROID DE CALLATAY
¨
WILLIAM R. SHEA, MARIANO ARTIGAS, Gali-
leo Observed. Science and the Politics of
Belief. Sagamore Beach: Science History
Publications/Watson Publishing Interna-
tional, 2006. 212 pp., ISBN 0-88135-
356-6.
Three years after co-authoring the book
Galileo in Rome, Shea and Artigas collabo-
rated on this new book which came out just
before the death of Artigas in December
2006. In a sense, this new work might thus
be considered as a testament of the Spanish
scholar, who has worked extensively in the
field of the relationship between science
and religion. This is in fact the topic of this
new book, centered on the figure of Gali-
leo, as the most famous protagonist of the
so often proclaimed unavoidable clash be-
tween religion – and in particular the
Catholic Church – and science. As the
authors state in the preface of the book,
‘‘Radically different accounts of Galileo’s
trial have been offered by historians, philo-
sophers, novelists, playwrights and journal-
ists, who usually stress one aspect of the
story at the expense of other equally impor-
tant ones. In this book we try to set the re-
cord straight in the belief that truth is more
satisfying, and more challenging than pro-
paganda or media hype’’ (p. IX). This quite
ambitious program is carried out in nine
chapters, in which various representatives
of the above mentioned categories of Gali-
leian writers are introduced and their works
scrutinized. These include John Draper
(History of the Conflict Between Religion
and Science) and Andrew White (History
of the Warfare of Science and Theology in
Christendom), with their thesis of the una-
voidable warfare between science and reli-
gion; Arthur Koestler, whose opposite the-
sis of Galileo’s responsibility is presented
in his book (co-authored with Herbert But-
BOOK REVIEWS 387
terfield) The sleepwalkers; and Bertolt
Brecht, whose depiction of Galileo’s failed
battle against authority is the well known
play Life of Galileo. The rest of the book
deals with more recent works, such as Wal-
ter Brandmu¨ ller’s Galileo and the Church or
the Right to Err, with its thesis of Galileo as
a good theologian, but a not so good physi-
cist; Mario Biagioli’s interpretation of Gali-
leo’s scientific achievements under the key-
note of Court Patronate, as proposed in his
book Galileo Courtier; and Pietro Redondi’s
Galileo Heretic, with its very controversial
assertion that the eucharist dogma, not the
Copernican issue, was the (hidden) reason
for Galileo’s trial and condemnation. Two
chapters of the book are dedicated to parti-
cular questions concerning Galileo, such as
the ‘‘long shadow’’ of Bruno’s trial nega-
tively projected on the Copernican theory
and therefore on Galileo’s defense of it,
and Galileo’s undeniable religiosity as
shown – indirectly – through the letters
written to him by his daughter Sister Maria
Celeste, made known to the general public
in Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter, and
through other facts of Galileo’s life. (The
authors however notice the lack of any re-
ference to Christ in Galileo’s religious
thought). The final chapter deals with the
‘‘Church apology to Galileo’’, contained in
the well known speeches of Cardinal Pou-
pard and of Pope John Paul II at the con-
clusion of the work of the Pontifical Com-
mission, to which had been entrusted the
task of reexamining the Galileo Affair,
and with the criticism of these speeches
voiced by ‘‘some’’ Galileo scholars.
To the general public, the book no doubt
offers useful insights into the complex fac-
tors that played a key role in Galileo’s un-
wanted conflict with the Catholic Church.
This is done within the critical assessment
of the main theses of each of the above
quoted books, as compared with the histor-
ical facts. Such a method, however, results
in numerous repetitions, at the expense of
the depth of the analysis. Galileo scholars
will also not fail to notice a certain insis-
tence on Galileo’s troublesome tempera-
ment, reminiscent of the typical pro-Church
apologetics of the past. At the same time,
they will hardly accept the depiction of Bel-
larmine as a theologian readily disposed to
accept future proofs of the Copernican vi-
sion. The full text of his letter to Foscarini
shows that in fact that possibility was for
him practically non existent. Moreover,
the question remains as to why he could
have accepted playing such an important
role in the declaration (by the Index Con-
gregation) of the incompatibility of the Co-
pernican opinion with Scripture, had he
been really convinced of the possibility of
those future proofs. As for the assessment
of the speeches of Cardinal Poupard and
of Pope John Paul II, the effort by the
authors to counter the criticism voiced by
a great number (not only ‘‘some’’) of Gali-
leo scholars regarding the content of that
‘‘apology’’ of the Catholic Church may not
appear fully satisfactory to them.
ANNIBALE FANTOLI
URSZULA SZULAKOWSKA, The Sacrificial Body
and the Day of Doom. Alchemy and Apo-
calyptic Discourse in the Protestant Refor-
mation. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2006. 180
pp., ISBN 90-04-15025-0.
Se scopo dell’alchimia e` il perfeziona-
mento artificiale della materia, non stupisce
che le pratiche di laboratorio siano state
spesso messe in relazione col tema della sal-
vezza o descritte come sacrifici religiosi: fin
dalle origini le ricerche degli alchimisti si in-
tersecano a prospettive soteriologiche, da
quella gnostica di Zosimo a quella cristiana
nel Medioevo, fino allo strettissimo intrec-
cio negli ambienti post-paracelsiani. Pro-
prio quest’ultimo aspetto e` quello che l’au-
trice intendeva mettere a fuoco nel suo
studio, impostato con un taglio cronologico
e storiografico molto promettente: perche´ e`
sicuramente con Paracelso e con quanti dei
suoi seguaci intesero il suo pensiero in con-
tinuita` con la tradizione alchemica che la
portata teologica di alcune delle idee centra-
li dell’alchimia giunse a pieno sviluppo.
388 BOOK REVIEWS
Interessante anche la scelta di concentra-
re l’attenzione sulla documentazione icono-
grafica, sia propriamente alchemica (il Rosa-
rium philosophorum del 1550, Khunrath,
Maier, Mylius, Lambsprinck), sia prove-
niente da testi cosmologici e metafisici nei
quali l’alchimia gioca un ruolo di primo pia-
no (Fludd, Michelspacher): la formazione
storico-artistica della studiosa, che le per-
mette di decifrare agevolmente immagini
ridondanti di motivi simbolici spesso deci-
samente criptici, avrebbe potuto essere
meglio sfruttata per coglierne la ricorrenza
e le variazioni, che potevano costituire un
notevole filo per l’indagine. Che questo fos-
se nelle intenzioni lo lascia pensare l’abbon-
danza delle riproduzioni, talune da ma-
noscritti, la maggior parte da volumi a
stampa (quasi tutte note, peraltro). Un vero
e proprio filo del discorso, tuttavia, non si
riesce a coglierlo, perche´ il lavoro, piu` che
sviluppare i temi annunciati titolo, si pre-
senta come una serie rapsodica di annota-
zioni di lettura relative all’alchimia post-pa-
racelsiana, all’arte religiosa nei paesi della
riforma protestante e alle discussioni teolo-
giche sull’eucarestia, il giudizio finale, la re-
surrezione dei corpi, con particolare atten-
zione alle posizioni di Robert Fludd e
degli spirituali (Weigel, Boehme, Francken-
berg, Haslmayr). Dalle letture fatte vengono
estratti elementi che hanno riscontro nelle
illustrazioni analizzate, allo scopo – scrive
l’autrice nell’introduzione – di indagare sul
motivo della sopravvivenza dell’identita` in-
dividuale che tuttavia, piuttosto incongrua-
mente rispetto al piano dell’indagine, viene
definita in termini filosofici come ‘‘the que-
stion of the manner in which subjectivity
was created and the manner of its dissolu-
tion’’ (p. 13). A meno che il termine subjec-
tivity non voglia indicare il tema dell’anthro-
pos, dal momento che poco oltre il tema
centrale del libro non sembra piu` riguarda-
re il corpo di resurrezione ma la concezione
dell’uomo macrocosmico (p. 36). L’idea che
gli alchimisti proponessero una visione pao-
lina (1 Corinzi) della resurrezione dei corpi
-idea che si affaccia in alcune pagine del li-
bro ed e` richiamata nella conclusione (pp.
75-76, 162) – e` di sicuro piu` pertinente
col tema annunciato nell’introduzione e
nel titolo, ma non viene sviluppata: ed e`
un vero peccato che, invece di seguire que-
sto filo, l’autrice si perda in una vasta ma
poco perspicua sintesi dei pregevoli studi
di Carolyn Walker Bynum (non Bynam co-
me viene costantemente ribattezzata nelle
note e in bibliografia – le sviste di questo ti-
po sono del resto numerose e fastidiose in
tutto il libro) e di altri studi storico-reli-
giosi (quelli di Robin B. Barnes, Alister
McGrath, Andre´ Seguenny, Paul A. Russell,
Carlos Gilly), che andavano certamente te-
nuti presenti per cogliere la peculiarita` del
rapporto fra alchimia e teologia, ma che
qui sono spesso semplicemente riassunti.
Lo spunto piu` interessante che Szula-
kowska propone risiede nell’affermazione
che l’ermeneutica biblica di Lutero, intesa
(sulla scorta degli studi di McGrath) come
lettura profetica della littera, viene applicata
negli ambienti paracelsiani ai testi alchemi-
ci, libro rivelato della natura (p. 58): pro-
prio per questo si rimpiange ancor di piu`
l’assenza di un vero approfondimento sugli
scritti d’alchimia, mentre troviamo analizza-
ti piu` che altro ben noti testi spirituali che
utilizzano il linguaggio alchemico, gia` stu-
diati da Alexandre Koyre´ e da Franc¸ ois Se-
cret (ma quest’ultimo non compare in bi-
bliografia).
Numerose pagine tradiscono una cono-
scenza imprecisa della storia dell’alchimia:
l’autrice parla di una ‘‘alchemical resurgen-
ce of the late sixteenth century’’ (p. 66), co-
me se l’alchimia avesse conosciuto un decli-
no in precedenza; confonde – ancora! – il
Rosarium philosophorum edito nel 1550
con la quasi omonima opera (Rosarius) attri-
buita ad Arnaldo da Villanova; e spesso non
si serve della bibliografia piu` recente. Piu` in
generale, e` soggetta a sviste decisamente
preoccupanti, come quando afferma che
‘‘the Greek Policlitus had drawn up his ca-
non of proportions, the ideal of classical
beauty, on the model of Galen’s description
of the body’’ (p. 88 – Policleto: 440-415
a.C.; Galeno: 129-200ca. d.C.); o sistemati-
camente cita il manoscritto laurenziano
Ashburn. 1166 senza indicare il nome della
collezione: e` vero che sono sviste che il let-
BOOK REVIEWS 389
tore avvertito corregge automaticamente,
ma confermano l’idea che si ricava dalla co-
struzione generale del libro, che sia stato
scritto in fretta, sfruttando un’idea interes-
sante e specifiche competenze iconografiche
senza concedersi il tempo per un’adeguata
riflessione e una stesura accurata.
MICHELA PEREIRA
LYNNE TATLOCK (ed.), Justine Siegemund:
The Court Midwife. Chicago and London:
The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
XXXII+260 pp., ISBN 0-226-75709-9.
The ‘‘other voice’’ in this volume of the
series, The Other Voice in Early Modern
Europe, edited by Margaret L. King and Al-
bert Rabil Jr., is that of Justine Siegemund,
whom we can now appreciate thanks to the
English translation by Lynne Tatlock. Sie-
gemund’s The Court Midwife (1690) deals
with difficult births, or what was then called
‘‘unnatural births’’ (p. 63). The text opens
with two important Introductions. The first,
by Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr.,
explains what ‘‘the other voice’’ is and pre-
sents a short and punctual panorama on the
‘‘Traditional views of women’’ from Anti-
quity to Early Modern Europe. The second
Introduction, by Lynne Tatlock, explains
why The Court Midwife belongs to the
Other Voice Series. Tatlock illustrates Sie-
gemund’s life and work (particularly rele-
vant are her conflicts with academic physi-
cians such as Martin Kerger and Andreas
Petermann), as well as the history, structure
and composition of the book; she deals with
questions of patronage, with the profes-
sional view of women, especially with re-
spect to other important books on the same
subject. In the last section Tatlock analyses
the tradition of the text and its editorial ma-
nipulations, illustrating the principles that
guided her translation, which highlights
her hard work on the difficult German of
the 17
th
century. Siegemund’s text is ac-
companied by a useful Table of Contents,
a Glossary and an Editor’s Bibliography.
As we learn from Tatlock’s Introduction
and Siegemund’s text, the composition of
The Court Midwife is strictly related to the
author’s life. This happens to not only con-
cern the matter of the book, namely the
contents and the references to actual per-
sons of the time, but also its aims. In fact,
Siegemund’s first step is to plead her own
case and explain how she came to midwif-
ery. She replies to those who accused her
of pretending to be a midwife without ever
having been pregnant or having given birth.
But why should the practice of midwifery
require a woman to have been pregnant,
Justine asks. A physician can ‘‘provide ad-
vice and aid’’ without experiencing the ill-
ness. He is expected to have ‘‘adequate
knowledge’’ and a ‘‘manifold experience
with similar injuries’’ (p. 46). The lack of
knowledge and experience is at the bottom
of Siegemund’s personal situation, since ig-
norant midwives thought, wrongly, that she
was pregnant and ready for delivery,
‘‘when, however, there was no child’’
(p. 47). That is why Justine Siegemund
started to study and practice midwifery.
Faced with the ‘‘seventeenth-century norms
for practitioners of midwifery’’ (Tatlock,
p. 1) and the need for instructing midwives,
Justine conceives her book as a pedagogical
tool: she wants to fight midwives’ ignorance
of their art (p. 86). From a methodological
point of view, the pedagogical aim is based
on a series of means. One is the structure of
the book itself, with each chapter devoted
to a specific topic in the first part, and a ser-
ies of questions and answers in the second.
Another is the literary use of the dialogue
between the teacher (Justina) and her pupil
(Christina), as well as the use of illustra-
tions, which complement the text, and the
several testimonies of successful deliveries
resulting from Justina’s professional skills.
Tatlock analyses the use of such pedagogi-
cal means, helping the reader reach a dee-
per understanding of the text.
The use of the dialogue, which Tatlock
connects with official catechism (p. 14), be-
comes a tool for teaching midwives to com-
municate to each other the learning of their
art. Indeed, at one point, Christina is able to
390 BOOK REVIEWS
use her teacher’s words on the ignorance of
midwives (p. 127). The same perspective
can be applied to the testimonies, whose
roles are not only judicial, but also pedago-
gical, as they present Justina’s teaching as
examples of good practice of the art of mid-
wifery (pp. 154-157). But what is this good
midwife’s practice of the art based on, ac-
cording to Justine? The explanation of the
first child Justine helped deliver is quite ex-
emplary. The child’s arm and little hand
hanged out of the belly. The young Justine,
alias Justina, is called to the pregnant wo-
man’s bedside, since she is known for read-
ing ‘‘books with illustrations of sundry
births’’ (p. 90). But these readings are of lit-
tle help. Justina tries a manoeuvre to place
the child back and in the right position. It
is from this first case that Justina started
to improve her understanding: ‘‘I gained
most of my knowledge through practice’’,
she says (p. 97). The reading of books bears
a limited knowledge, whose real source is
experience. The opposition between text-
book learning and experienced learning be-
comes the leitmotif of Siegemund’s teach-
ing, as we can grasp from the story of her
treating the attached ‘‘afterbirth’’ (placenta
and foetal membranes). Two patients died,
before Justina experienced the method of
detaching it, peeling it off with her little fin-
gers (pp. 146-148), thus saving the third pa-
tient. This seems to be the major contribu-
tion of Siegemund’s book: the teaching not
only of the contents of the art of midwifery
(such as the importance of finger palpation
and the manoeuvres), but also of the way to
acquire a sound experienced knowledge of
this art, since a midwife could acquire it
‘‘because she was a woman’’ (Tatlock, p. 2).
CONCETTA PENNUTO
Enlightenment
JOSE
´
RAMO
´
N BERTOMEU SA
´
NCHEZ, ANTONIO
GARCI
´
A BELMAR, La revolucio´n quı ´mica.
Entre la historia y la memoria. Valencia:
Universitat de Vale` ncia, 2006. 296 pp.,
ISBN 10: 84-370-6549-6.
One of the merits of the book lies in the
fact that it provides, confirming precisely
what the authors point out in the introduc-
tion, ‘‘an accessible explanation of the che-
mical revolution according to the results of
the historical research produced in the last
decades’’ (p. 12). The other is that the vo-
lume presents fresh reflections on this
highly representative period of the history
of chemistry.
Throughout the text, the authors explore
the diverse elements that comprise the ka-
leidoscopic unit labelled as the chemical re-
volution. To accomplish this, the first chap-
ter draws our attention to the key topics of
eighteenth-century chemistry. Authors em-
phasise here, for example, the information
available to students (exposed in popular
textbooks), the institutional setting of the
discipline, research programmes and theo-
retical explanations based on the concept
of phlogiston or affinity. None of the ele-
ments, therefore, relative to a variety of do-
mains, from social to theoretical, is ex-
cluded from this account of the context in
which innovations slowly emerged.
Some of these initial themes constitute
the argument of the following sections of
the book. Thus we find again in the second
chapter, entitled with a touch of irony
‘‘Phlogiston in the air’’, a more extensive
treatment of the destiny of the fluid that in-
spired ‘‘an excellent theoretical framework’’
(p. 63) for a variety of familiar phenomena.
In fact, this part covers the twists and turns
of the series of painstaking experiments un-
dertaken by A. Lavoisier that turned out in
the idea that the cause of the increase of
weight in metals during calcination is the
BOOK REVIEWS 391
purest part of the air. At this point it must
be emphasised, as it is inferred from the
facts mentioned in this section, that Lavoi-
sier was not isolated from the scientific
community in the working process.
Although the result mentioned above was
highly relevant (it indeed meant a serious
threat to the phlogiston perspective), to as-
sure the acceptance, credibility and consoli-
dation of these accomplishments, as part of
a wider alternative conception it demanded
supplementary actions. Apart from addi-
tional experimental investigations, in parti-
cular the ones carried out with the calori-
meter and the ones leading to the analysis
and synthesis of water, Bertomeu and Gar-
cı´a Belmar bring up the significance of the
‘‘instruments of communication and per-
suasion’’ (p. 117) put into practice at that
time. This task, assumed as something like
a mission, was put in effect by means of
three tools: firstly, the reformation of che-
mical language and the new nomenclature;
secondly, the publication of a textbook –
the Traite´ e´le´mentaire de chimie – meant
to renovate the teaching of the discipline,
and in the third place, the issue of a new
journal, Annals de Chimie.
In order to obtain a more accurate pic-
ture of the different dimensions of the che-
mical revolution, authors’ concerns also em-
brace two major issues. On the one hand,
chapter 5 contemplates what is called ‘‘the
uses of chemistry’’ (p. 151), that is, the
practical ramifications of chemical knowl-
edge, something that played a relevant role
in the public acceptance of the discipline.
The following section, on the other hand,
refers to the problems involved in the diffu-
sion of the new ideas, where ‘‘concentric vi-
sions’’ (p. 210) are definitely out of place. In
addition, as an example of the reception of
innovations in the geographically peripheral
regions, a subsequent section is devoted
specifically to the Spanish army surgeon
Juan Manuel Are´ jula, an author familiar
with chemical novelties who made a few
contributions in particular areas of the dis-
cipline.
In the final section of the book, the
authors give a historiographic overview that
traces the origin of the myths associated
with the interpretation of Lavoisier’s
achievements. Moreover, in this section we
come across some other issues, partially
analysed in previous divisions, that deal
with the precise meaning and scope of the
chemical revolution. Bertomeu and Garcı ´a
Belmar also devote a few pages to draw at-
tention to the ever increasing studies fo-
cused on women’s contributions to the
events referred to. To complete the content
of this volume, it incorporates at the end a
useful glossary and an up-to-date bibliogra-
phy. And last but not least, throughout the
text the reader will find several representa-
tive illustrations of, among others, instru-
ments, experimental arrangements and
scenes of chemical demonstrations that give
a complementary perspective to the events
narrated.
Overall, it is a very useful tool that pro-
vides historians, scientists and students in
general with a mental map of this highly
complex and crucial episode in the history
of chemistry.
VI
´
CTOR GUIJARRO MORA
CLAUDE BLANCKAERT, MICHEL PORRET (eds.),
L’Encyclope´ die Me´ thodique (1782- 1832):
des lumie`res au positivisme. Gene`ve: Droz,
2006. 830 pp., ISBN 2-600-00805-5.
The project of publishing an Encyclope´-
die Me´thodique ou par ordre des matie`res
was a massive undertaking, commenced in
the last decade of the ancien re´gime and
not completed until the early years of the
July Monarchy, half a century later. It was
conceived by the entrepreneurial book deal-
er, Charles-Joseph Panckoucke (1736-
1798), as an updated and systematised suc-
cessor to the Encyclope´die of Diderot and
d’Alembert. Panckoucke himself personally
supervised the project from 1782 until
1794, overseeing 56 of the 102 volumes that
were eventually produced, while at the same
time maintaining all his other commercial
activities. He then turned over the enter-
392 BOOK REVIEWS
prise to his son-in-law, Henri Agasse, who
brought out another 21 volumes under ad-
verse wartime conditions, before his death
in 1813. Production of the final 25 volumes
was overseen by the widow Agasse, Panck-
oucke’s daughter Pauline, who also had to
contend with her share of difficulties in
completing the project.
Panckoucke’s original conception of the
Encyclope´die Me´thodique was grandiose. It
was to be at the same time a set of reference
works and a series of authoritative treatises
on all fields of human knowledge. To com-
bine these two functions, Panckoucke de-
vised an ingenious organisational plan: the
encyclopaedia would devote one or more
volumes to each field of knowledge to be
covered, but within the volumes devoted
to each specific field, the topics would ap-
pear in alphabetical order. This alphabetisa-
tion would enable the work to be used for
reference purposes. In addition, however,
for each field of knowledge there would
also be a guide indicating the (non-alphabe-
tical) order in which the articles should be
read so as to provide a systematic treatise
on that field as a whole. Finally, there was
to be a ‘‘universal vocabulary’’, an index
containing every term for which there was
an entry (or multiple entries) anywhere in
the Encyclope´die Me´thodique. This index
would be the key to the reference function
of the work, since it would direct the reader
to the appropriate volume, page and col-
umn number(s) for each term listed.
To what extent was this original concep-
tion actually realised? And to what extent
were the authors of the 102 volumes able
to produce ‘‘authoritative’’ treatises on their
assigned subjects at a time when most of the
fields in question were undergoing rapid
transformational development (e.g. chemis-
try), and when the prevailing epistemologi-
cal assumptions of the day were also in tran-
sition (des lumie`res au positivisme)? These
are the questions which the essays collected
by Blanckaert and Porret seek to address.
Following a substantial introduction by
Porret, the remaining 28 chapters are
grouped under four headings: l’Homme;
E
´
tat et socie´te´; Nature, sciences et techni-
ques; and Arts, lettres et langage.
This volume is the outcome of an inter-
national symposium on the Encyclope´die
Me´thodique, held at the University of Gen-
eva in 2000, and it has the usual weakness
of such collections – the chapters reflect
the research interests of the symposium
participants and therefore provide, when
viewed in the aggregate, a somewhat hapha-
zard selection of topics. For example, there
is a chapter on military medicine in the En-
cyclope´die Me´thodique, but no chapter on
medicine as a whole, even though French
medicine during the period in question
was at the forefront of European theory
and practice, and also riven with contro-
versy. But setting aside the matter of uneven
coverage, the particular topics that are ad-
dressed are handled with thorough scholar-
ship.
Historians of science will probably be
attracted first to the section on Nature,
sciences et techniques, which consists of
chapters on naval architecture, physics,
mathematics, chemistry, botany, zoology
and agriculture. But there are also chapters
on anthropology and geography under the
heading l’Homme, and one can find the
previously mentioned chapter on military
medicine under E
´
tat et socie´te´. The volume
is sparingly illustrated and concludes with
an index of personal names.
W.R. ALBURY
JAMES DELBOURGO, A most amazing scene of
wonders. Electricity and enlightenment in
early America. Cambridge (MA) and Lon-
don: Harvard University Press, 2006.
XII+367 pp., ISBN 978-0-674-02299-7.
James Delbourgo’s book is a significant
addition to the literature on science and
the Enlightenment. Focusing on a geogra-
phical area comparatively neglected by his-
torians of science – early America and the
British Atlantic, from the 1740s to ca.
1800 – Delbourgo raises a number of issues
that claim relevance for our understanding
of science and the Enlightenment generally.
12
BOOK REVIEWS 393
The protagonists of the book are an unu-
sual mix of people, ranging from founding
fathers such as Benjamin Franklin and Tho-
mas Jefferson to little-known colonial fig-
ures, including medical doctors, entrepre-
neurs, Caribbean authorities, and quacks,
all linked together by their double interest
in electricity and in programmes aimed at
‘‘improving the provincial self’’ (p. 96).
The genre adopted throughout is cultural
history, with a predilection for ‘‘the move-
ment and mutability of practices and ideas
between different actors in the public
sphere’’ (p. 10).
Chapter 1 and 2 are devoted to a reas-
sessment of Franklin’s science of electricity.
Chapters 3 and 4 connect his work to a
broader cultural history of electricity in pro-
vincial, then revolutionary, America. The
outcome is refreshing, and likely to stir de-
bate among Franklin scholars. According to
Delbourgo, Franklin endorsed ‘‘a radical vi-
talist cosmology in which nature was funda-
mentally a volatile entity with a latent ten-
dency to destructive separation’’ (p. 45).
Rather than removing wonder from the
science and practice of electricity, ‘‘Frank-
lin’s liberal American economy of wonder
allowed for the possibility that real good
could come from mysterious sources, in-
cluding medical electricity (and mesmer-
ism)’’ (p. 206). Delbourgo argues that ‘‘even
Franklin, the bookkeeper of nature who
sought to control electricity through eco-
nomic management, marvelled at its fiery
tendency to liberty and violent separation’’
(p. 281). As a result, the received view of
the intertwining of scientific, political, and
religious motives in the early history of elec-
tricity shifts. According to Delbourgo, ‘‘The
work of enlightened electricians with deistic
tendencies, like Franklin, did not necessa-
rily undermine zealous natural philosophy;
indeed, it provided grist for spiritual mills’’
(p. 218).
The second part of the book explores a
broader range of authors and themes.
Chapter 5 opens an interesting window on
experimental natural history as practiced
in South America in the 1760s. It focuses
on the colonial physician Edward Bancroft,
as well as on Dutch settlers, the natives, and
the enslaved African populations, who were
often instrumental in making access to and
experimentation on the rare local fauna
possible. Having spent several years in the
plantations of Dutch Guiana, Bancroft cir-
culated news of the American electric eel
in London, where in 1775 anatomist John
Hunter published its first detailed descrip-
tion. The eel was thus added to the list of
animals displaying an electric power, and
received much attention from anatomists
and physicists during the subsequent dec-
ades. The electric fish, especially the torpe-
do, became the focus of several attempts by
electricians aimed at imitating its anatomy
and effects, and it played a role in the path
that led Alessandro Volta to the construc-
tion of the first electric battery in 1799.
Chapter 6 offers some fascinating exam-
ples of the intertwining of evangelicalism
and medical electricity. The discussion fo-
cuses on the ‘‘electrical humanitarianism’’
of Dr. T. Gale, of Galway, New York. Dr.
Gale adopted the old notion of ether as a
medium that mediated between the divine
and the material worlds, and asserted a spe-
cial relationship between God, electricity,
and the soul. By encouraging the kind of
self-treatment made possible by the pa-
tient’s access to electrical machines, Dr. Ga-
le’s treatments favoured personal autonomy
and emancipation, and were consistent with
a political and religious view that abhorred
centralism and collectivist control.
Another programme of electrotherapy,
advocated by Elisha Perkins of Plainfield,
Connecticut, is discussed in chapter 7. Per-
kins also advocated a form of self-treat-
ment, based on the use of patented ‘‘trac-
tors’’. These were three-inch metallic rods
made of brass and iron, and were recom-
mended for the self-treatment of a variety
of ailments, from ‘‘nervous head-ache’’ to
toothache. Despite or because of its popu-
larity on both sides of the Atlantic, Perkin-
ism became the target of frequent attacks
that portrayed tractors as an emblem of
quack medicine. Perkins indeed made no
effort to explain the virtues of his tractors,
adopting a strategy that Delbourgo charac-
394 BOOK REVIEWS
terizes as ‘‘the antiwonderful epitome of en-
lightened science: accessible, useful, and
based solely on experience’’ (p. 243).
The single most valuable contribution of
Delbourgo’s study is the line of caution it
instils towards the Foucauldian interpreta-
tion that construed the Enlightenment, gen-
erally, as a programme of social control. As
Delbourgo convincingly shows, ‘‘in Ameri-
ca, enlightenment lay in rejecting, rather
than pressing, claims to rational mastery’’
(283). According to this reviewer, that ap-
plied to several varieties of the European
Enlightenment as well.
GIULIANO PANCALDI
FELIX DRIVER, LUCIANA MARTINS (eds.), Tro-
pical Visions in an Age of Empire. Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press, 2005.
279 pp., ISBN 0-226-16472-1.
The trail opened by Edward Said and his
now classic text Orientalism exposed a new
and extended trend of research and reread-
ing to the field of postcolonial studies’ mul-
tiple disciplines. The series of articles com-
piled by Felix Driver and Luciana Martins
belongs to the revisionist wake; neverthe-
less this collection is not a mere reproduc-
tion of transplanted parameters from the ci-
ted Said book, rather it constitutes a
beacon of light for those researchers who
are interested in reassessing the tropical ex-
ploration visions apprehended, how they
were negotiated and even contested during
the Age of Empire around the world and in
Europe.
Most of the essays included by the 11
contributors are revised versions of the pa-
pers presented at a conference at the Na-
tional Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
The text introduced by the co-editors, Felix
Driver and Luciana Martins, and after-
worded by Denis Cosgrove is divided in
three parts: Voyages, Mappings and Sites.
The significant number of contributors
scholarly enhances the conference’s per-
spectives and multidisciplinary approach.
The introductory essay presents these
three parts linked by a common denomina-
tor: the contrasting modalities of viewing
and visioning through the tropics and how
the tropics themselves have been captured
throughout the age of scientific explora-
tions through writing, sketching, mapping,
charting, panoramas, photography and the
like. Most of the explorations set about in
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries en-
abled or confronted the views and visions of
the tropical world heritage.
The first triad of studies of the first part,
Voyages, examines how tropical cultures
and natures were acknowledged and repre-
sented. Claudio Greppi’s descriptive and
informative study centers his essay on the
influence of a series of European draftsmen
and painters who travelled between the
mid-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
beginning with William Hodges, the painter
who accompanied Captain Cook on his sec-
ond Pacific voyage and later travelled by
himself in India. Michael Dettelbach’s arti-
cle studies the quintessence of this sensibil-
ity in Alexander von Humboldt’s writings,
which has their origins in the writings about
chemical physiology and German mining,
the seed of his philanthropic aestheticiza-
tion of the Tropics. Felix Driver and Luci-
ana Martins’ essay portrays the new eight-
eenth-century sensibility opened in the
naturalist William Burchell, where the mere
collectionist enterprise achieved a new phi-
losophical dimension.
The second chapter, Mappings, is dedi-
cated to how tropical cultures were
mapped. Peter Hulme’s essay analyses the
way in which two particular tropical loca-
tions, Dominica and Tahiti, were con-
structed and negotiated in parallel with
the different discourses that emerged by
the late eighteenth century in the Caribbean
and the South Pacific. In contrast to those
parallel construction sites of the Tropic,
the first article by Starr Douglas and Felix
Driver scrutinizes the work of the naturalist
Henry Smeathman, who provided an inno-
vative mapping of the Sierra Leone and
the Caribbean areas through drawings of
termite colonies. D. Graham Burnett’s essay
BOOK REVIEWS 395
is centered on the methodology and devel-
opment of oceanography mapping of Mat-
thew Fountaine Maury and his tropicality.
The last section of articles, Sites, provides
analysis about how different discourses,
views and visions dealing with tropical geo-
graphical locations are represented and con-
structed. David Arnold’s essay focuses on the
narrative aspects of Joseph Hooker’s journey
to India and the Himalayas. On the other
hand Leonard Bell engages in the decon-
struction of the photographic representation
of Tropicalism of the South Seas and Samoa
in particular during the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. Rod Edmond’s article
analyses the Metropolitan European dis-
course of tropical diseases and its degenera-
tive connotations, where leprosy is the epi-
tome of the disease of tropicality.
The epigone of the compilation, by Denis
Cosgrove, points to the construction of the
Tropic as a flush of interaction through his-
tory between the diversity of experiences of
the travellers who visited it and the physical
world envisioned. Three ontological tropics,
the cosmographic, the geographic, and the
environmental/ethnographic, are the devices
used to explain the interplay of its concep-
tualisation, all of them in permanent flux.
The revisionist glaze of this compilation
not only stands out by the character of its
content and cross disciplinary analysis but
also by the tropical focus envisioned and re-
visited, which is accompanied by an excel-
lent critical apparatus, a select bibliography
and appropriate illustrations related to the
content.
JOSE
´
MARI
´
A GARCI
´
A SA
´
NCHEZ
HARRY LIEBERSOHN, The Traveler’s World.
Europe to the Pacific. Cambridge (Mass.)
and London: Harvard University Press,
2006. XIII+380 pp., ISBN: 0-674-02185-1.
The Traveler’s World is the latest book by
historian Harry Liebersohn, a professor of
the History of Travel at the University of Chi-
cago. In this volume he continues to develop
his ideas on the topic of Travel Writing, al-
ready approached by him in his previous
book, Aristocratic Encounters: European Tra-
velers and North American Indians (Cam-
bridge University Press, 1998). An expert
on the topic, Liebersohn brings an insightful
and thorough book to the field that is well
documented with a wealth of primary
sources. This newbook focuses on European
travelers in the Pacific, specifically in the
Polynesian islands of Hawaii and Tahiti in
the period between 1750 and 1850. Much
has already been written about the most fa-
mous travel writers and explorers of those
times: Wilhelm von Humboldt, Cook and
La Condamine. Nevertheless, the author
manages to condense the most vital and in-
teresting information about these travelers,
along with providing new insights into their
ideas and their place in the intellectual his-
tory of Europe.
Additionally, this study focuses on three
lesser known travelers: Philibert Commer-
son, a French naturalist aboard Louis de
Bougainville’s world voyage (1766-1769);
George Foster, a young German who ac-
companied Cook on his second voyage
(1772-1775); and Adelbert von Chamisso, a
Prussian who served as naturalist on the voy-
age of captain Otto von Kotzebue (1815-
1818). All three writers produced texts that
attracted debate and controversy, as there
was a vast audience anxious for travel ac-
counts with descriptions of foreign lands
and peoples during this timeframe. But not
only are these three travel writers presented
in the book, other travelers to the Polynesian
islands such as Melville and Darwin find
their place in this account, as do other intel-
lectuals, such as Rousseau, Diderot, Kant
and Foster, whose philosophies are highly in-
fluenced by their reading of travel writers.
The book accomplishes its two goals with
ease: to offer a fascinating narration of three
travelers (Commerson, Foster and von Cha-
misso), their expeditions and the impact of
their accounts; and to provide an excep-
tional fresco of the international develop-
ment of travel writing in its transition from
the old regime to the new European order.
396 BOOK REVIEWS
In his study the author highlights the role
of the travelers as a link between overseas en-
counters and metropolitan histories (the in-
tellectual discussions about cultures that took
place inthe core of Europe). Inthis study, tra-
vel writers are not considered as isolated indi-
viduals with control over their written pro-
duction, on the contrary, they are seen as
mere actors within an increasingly expanding
global network whose intellectual production
is subject to many different and powerful in-
terests. In an attempt to cover the most im-
portant facets of the travel writing of the time,
the book is divided in sections devoted to
‘‘Travelers’’, ‘‘Patrons’’, ‘‘Collaborators’’,
‘‘Philosophers’’, and ‘‘Missions’’, with a spe-
cial section for Darwin and Melville.
Postcolonial studies have provided a the-
oretical framework that allows for the read-
ing of travel narratives as texts produced by
the metropolis with the intention of provid-
ing the intellectual, scientific and moral jus-
tification for European expansion. Lieber-
son does not contest this. Still, he is able –
in an unusual twist – to expand this type
of analysis to non-Europeans of the times,
as the locals of the explored territories
‘‘had equally powerful ambitions’’ (p. 14),
and wanted to ‘‘satisfy their own curiosity
about the larger world’’ (p. 140).
Perhaps the part of Lieberson’s study
that is most worthy of note is the section de-
voted to the ‘‘Collaborators’’, those natives
who served as informants for the European
travelers and in some cases traveled with
them back to Europe. The author provides
a fascinating account of Polynesians like
Ahutoru, Mahi, Kadu and others who be-
came celebrities in their own right once they
reached Europe. Lacking first person ac-
counts of their travels, the author relies on
a wide collection of documents and testimo-
nies to bear out their personalities.
This book will be equally attractive to the
neophyte who seeks to understand the so-
cial, political and human implications of tra-
vel writing during the Enlightenment and
Romantic eras, and to the specialist who
wants to expand his knowledge by gaining
insight into the life and writings of three les-
ser known travel writers.
JAVIER TORRE
Modern and Contemporary Science
EMMANUEL BETTA, Animare la vita. Discipli-
na della nascita tra medicina e morale nel-
l’Ottocento. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2006.
368 pp., ISBN 88-15-10880-7.
Il libro tratta di come nel corso dell’Otto-
cento, e specialmente nei paesi cattolici, si e`
contrastato l’aborto medico introdotto allo
scopo di salvare la madre in pericolo di vita.
La ricerca parte dal punto in cui finisce quel-
la di Adriano Prosperi (Dare l’anima. Storia
di un infanticidio, Torino, 2005); ma se in
Prosperi e` centrale il significato di un crimi-
ne e il racconto di come venisse definita la
cittadinanza umana prima e dopo la nascita
fisica e spirituale (il battesimo), in Betta si ri-
leva il conflitto tra piu` ‘‘discorsi disciplinari’’.
Sulla base di un’interpretazione foucaultiana
il testo si compone di un’introduzione e di sei
capitoli dedicati alla casistica (I), al lessico
medico (II), alle terapie e alle determinazioni
di accademie e universita` (III e IV, quest’ul-
timo dedicato all’Italia), ai decreti del San-
t’Uffizio (V) e ai loro riflessi sulla dottrina
(VI). Scienza e immaginazione teologica, giu-
stizia ecclesiastica e linguaggio medico-lega-
le: questo il nodo avviluppatosi sul corpo
delle donne in anni in cui la nascita si medi-
calizzava e veniva emarginata la sapienza del-
le mammane.
La discussione sul momento in cui il feto
diventava umano dotandosi di anima (ani-
mazione) non si era mai conclusa, anche se
BOOK REVIEWS 397
nel Settecento si era affermata la linea del
clero convinto che il battesimo del feto, ani-
mato sin dal primo istante di vita, giustificas-
se la soppressione della donna. In nome del-
la ‘‘sacra embriologia’’ il corpo femminile
poteva essere sezionato per permettere al-
l’acqua di toccare la testa del feto. Nei paesi
protestanti il taglio cesareo non ebbe fortu-
na e nell’Ottocento il suo fallimento fu evi-
dente: molti medici si convinsero che fosse
un’operazione ‘‘favorevole’’ al feto. L’osses-
sione cattolica per il battesimo si attenuo` gra-
zie al riconoscimento ufficioso della validita`
del battesimo intrauterino; e la discussione
pote` partire ‘‘alla pari’’: salvare la madre o il
feto, entrambi battezzati? L’ostetricia benefi-
cio` dei progressi della biologia (affermazione
della tesi epigenetica, scoperta dell’ovulo) e si
diffuse la pratica dell’aborto terapeutico, che
significo` non solo il parto prematuro ma il ta-
glio del feto in caso di rischio per la madre
(embriotomia, craniotomia). Era una pratica
lecita? Violava il decalogo e i codici? Il medi-
co rivendico` la legittimita` dei suoi interventi
rispetto alla legge; ma zittire la Chiesa fu dif-
ficile. Le universita` cattoliche erano titubanti;
e a meta` secolo il darwinismo getto` una luce
sinistra sull’idea aristotelico-tomistica che l’a-
nima entrasse in diverse fasi dello sviluppo fe-
tale. Il nodo fu complesso, e la ricerca di Bet-
ta, che scandaglia in archivi di accademie e di
tribunali cattolici, in riviste mediche e teolo-
giche, in dizionari scientifici e summae, rende
tutta la difficolta` di un intrico in cui fu in gio-
co quale autorita` dovesse decidere per ‘‘il be-
ne pubblico’’ sul corpo della donna.
Al concetto di animazione si accompagno`
cosı ` quello mondano di ‘‘vitabilita` ’’. Esso sta-
bilı ` il momento dopo il quale si riteneva che il
feto, interrotta la gravidanza, riuscisse a so-
pravvivere fuori dal ventre e la soglia oltre
la quale si poteva parlare (dal punto di vista
penale, o per questioni di eredita` ) di nascita
o di uccisione. A rompere il veto ippocratico
sull’aborto fu l’Inghilterra di Cooper (1769).
Seguı` la Germania protestante di Na¨ gele
(1826). L’aborto invece tardo` a essere accet-
tato nelle scuole di area cattolica. Nel 1822
si sperimento` l’auscultazione del battito car-
diaco fetale, e nel 1832 venne presentato al-
l’Acade´mie Royale de Me´dicine di Parigi un
rapporto in cui si sostenne che il ricorso
all’aborto era talvolta doveroso. Nel 1851 la
stessa accademia dovette pronunciarsi su un
caso piu` controverso: la decisione non fu resa
pubblica ma il silenzio fu interpretato come
‘‘approvazione delle terapie abortive’’ (p.
180). Un varco si aprı` anche nell’accademia
di medicina belga; ma in quella sede ‘‘il rap-
porto tra scienza e religione cattolica fu il
punto centrale della discussione’’ (p. 181).
Lo e` anche nella ricerca di Betta, che ricorda
come non vi fosse una divisione netta tra
medici laici e credenti, anche se furono le uni-
versita` cattoliche a investire il Sant’Uffizio
dell’urgenza di dire una parola. Scottata dal
passato (Galileo), l’Inquisizione evito` a lungo
di pronunciarsi: ‘‘la definizione precisa dello
statuto scientifico-medico delle terapie abor-
tive [...] fu considerata la precondizione [...
per costruire un giudizio morale, riconoscen-
do implicitamente alla questione un’autono-
ma dimensione scientifica’’ (p. 267).
Il tempo delle chiusure giunse anni dopo,
troncando una discussione vivace anche in
Italia, dove ‘‘punto di riferimento’’ del di-
battito resto` la Francia (p. 207). La Chiesa
intervenne ‘‘perche´ il discorso della religio-
ne si era dimostrato poroso alle argomenta-
zioni [...] del discorso scientifico’’ (p. 14).
Pio IX emano` una bolla in cui condanno`
quanti avessero collaborato a un aborto,
avallando l’ipotesi immediatista (1869); e
nel 1884 il foro inquisitoriale decreto` che
la liceita` dell’embriotomia non poteva soste-
nersi in modo sicuro. Si affermo` cosı ` la linea
di medici, teologi e consultori ostili all’idea
di un intervento occisivo che preferisse la
donna al feto. Quella posizione divenne uf-
ficiale; tuttavia nei testi di teologia morale e
di catechesi fu accettata con qualche resi-
stenza. La Chiesa aveva ribadito la primazia
del discorso teologico su quello scientifico,
ma rimase aperto un fronte interno destina-
to a durare. Vorremmo saperne di piu` , co-
me vorremmo capire meglio il ruolo giocato
dall’Accademia Medico Filosofica di San
Tommaso nell’orientare le scelte curiali. E
vorremmo comprendere perche´ da una cer-
ta data in poi al concetto di animazione si
sostituı ` quello di ‘‘ominizzazione’’ o di ‘‘vi-
vificazione’’ (p. 22n); e perche´ il dibattito
398 BOOK REVIEWS
torno` scottante negli anni in cui fu pronun-
ciato il dogma dell’Immacolata Concezione.
Sono alcune delle curiosita` che suscita un
volume a cui si puo` rimproverare qualche
refuso di troppo e un difetto di struttura
(perche´ non collocare il I capitolo prima
del V?). Il libro tuttavia (e non e` merito
da poco) tocca la questione delle sperimen-
tazioni operate sulle partorienti povere delle
natalita` in cambio della gratuita` delle cure
(p. 112). Fatto che conferma come sul cor-
po delle donne si sia giocata (si giochi) una
partita tutta maschile e ‘‘biopolitica’’.
VINCENZO LAVENIA
ANDREW BROWN, J. D. Bernal. The sage of
science. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2005. XIV+562 pp., ISBN 0-19-851544-8.
The task of achieving a wide-ranging
open-minded biography of Desmond Ber-
nal has been almost as chequered as the life
itself. Before Bernal’s death, Maurice Gold-
smith announced his intention of becoming
his biographer. For Bernal, Goldsmith’s
politics were too centrist, and he opposed
this plan; after his death in 1971, his
friends, worried that Goldsmith might write
of Bernal’s love life, organised a policy of
non-cooperation, and, as a result, Gold-
smith’s book, Sage (Hutchinson, 1980), is
somewhat fragmentary.
The reply by his friends and political sup-
porters was an immense time in gestation,
but in 1999, Bernal: A Life in Science and
Politics, edited by Brenda Swann and Fran-
cis Aprahamian, was published by Verso,
providing much interesting information,
but a total lack of critical analysis.
At last, nearly thirty-five years after Ber-
nal’s death, Andrew Brown has written a
rounded account of the life of this most
fascinating man, describing capably the
science, the politics, the war work, the ideas
on the social function of science, and, to an
extent, the relationships. His main source
has been the Bernal Archive at Cambridge,
but, with the passage of time, he has been
luckier than Goldsmith in being allowed in-
terviews with several of Bernal’s surviving
political confidantes and lovers.
Of the love life, it may be noted that
there are in Cambridge six boxes of love let-
ters sealed until 2021, but Brown had en-
ough material to be able to describe Ber-
nal’s ‘libidinous ways’ (p. VIII). Bernal
appeared generally able to ride the occa-
sional storms with a displaced lover, and,
after his severe stroke, several of his ‘wives’
collaborated to provide the constant care
required, all on good terms with Bernal, if
not always with each other.
Brown is excellent on the science, both
on the comparatively short period when
Bernal’s other interests enabled him to con-
centrate on his own academic work and to
make a major contribution towards estab-
lishing the discipline of crystallography,
and on his later collaboration with, and in-
spiration of, others. Unlike many of those
he encouraged, Bernal was not awarded a
Nobel Prize, but Brown (p. 95) considers
him unlucky to have missed the connection
between his own work on sex hormones
and on the sterol molecules, that would
have won him a share in the 1939 Prize
for Chemistry.
Among his collaborators, many por-
trayed vividly by Brown, were Bill Astbury,
crystallographer of textiles; Dorothy Crow-
foot Hodgkin, prote´ ge´ of Bernal and later
Nobel Prize winner for the structure of in-
sulin; Max Perutz, whose decades of effort
paid off with a Nobel Prize for the structure
of haemoglobin; John Kendrew, who was
first stimulated by Bernal while working
with him on operational research in North
Africa during the war, and who ended up
sharing the Nobel Prize with Perutz; and
Aaron Klug, also a Nobel Prize winner
and later President of the Royal Society.
After her torrid period at King’s, Rosalind
Franklin moved in 1953 to Birkbeck to
work with Bernal on viruses with great suc-
cess until her death in 1958.
Brown provides a full account of Bernal’s
war work, on bombing strategy, Habakkuk
– the proposed ship of strengthened ice, the
Mulberry harbour, the beginnings of opera-
BOOK REVIEWS 399
tional research, and planning much of D-
day. Whereas Goldsmith had been con-
vinced by Sir Solly Zuckerman that Bernal’s
account of visiting the landing beaches on
the afternoon of D-day was a fantasy,
Brown’s new evidence allows his to present
it in the main narrative.
Much attention is paid to Bernal’s com-
munism – his beliefs, his journeys, the orga-
nisations he led. While adopting a generally
neutral tone, Brown is prepared to be caus-
tic; an obituary of Stalin is described as a
‘grotesque eulogy’ (p. 313), a justification
of the Soviet invasion of Hungary as a ‘dis-
graceful piece’ (p. 401). Though describing
Bernal’s part in the World Peace Council as
an ‘instrument of Soviet foreign policy’
(p. 487), Brown admits that it may have
acted as a restraint on Khrushchev.
Also described are Bernal’s famous
books, The Social Function of Science, pub-
lished in 1939, which inspired much of the
post-war planning of science, and his
Science in History, first published in 1954,
an attempt to describe the history of science
in Marxist terms.
Brown is to be commended on writing a
book that handles the various aspects of
Bernal’s life in such an authoritative, read-
able and coherent manner.
ANDREW WHITAKER
GUIDO CHIESURA, Charles Darwin geologo.
La formazione del giovane Darwin. Do-
centi e mentori, il viaggio iniziatico tra
vulcani e atolli. Le opere geologiche. Bene-
vento: Hevelius Edizioni, 2002. 207 pp.,
ISBN 88-86977-28-X; GUIDO CHIESURA
(ed.), Charles Darwin: Opere geologiche.
Benevento: Hevelius Edizioni, 2004.
431 pp., ISBN 88-86977-59-X.
‘‘Mia cara Emma, ho appena finito il mio
abbozzo della mia teoria delle specie. Se, co-
me credo, la mia teoria e`vera [...], essa costi-
tuira` un passo notevole nella scienza. Scrivo
quindi questo, nel caso che io debba morire
improvvisamente, come la mia piu` solenne
e ultima richiesta [...]: cioe` di destinare 400
£ alla sua pubblicazione [...]. – Desidero
che il mio abbozzo sia affidato a una persona
competente [...]. – Il Sig. Lyell sarebbe il mi-
gliore [...]. Poiche´ il curatore deve essere un
geologo nonche´ un naturalista. Il prossimo
miglior curatore sarebbe il Professor Forbes
di Londra. Il successivo [...] sarebbe il Profes-
sor Henslow?? [...]. – Se nessuno di questi
volesse cimentarsi, ti chiederei di prendere
consiglio dal Sig. Lyell [...], per trovare un
curatore geologo e naturalista’’. Cosı` scriveva
Charles Darwin alla moglie Emma, il 5 lu-
glio del 1844, pregandola, consapevole di
una salute malferma e nell’eventualita` di
una prematura scomparsa, di affidare la cu-
ratela del saggio sulla ‘‘teoria delle specie’’ a
Charles Antony Lyell o, qualora costui aves-
se rifiutato, a un ‘‘geologo e naturalista’’. In
questa lettera, vero e proprio testamento in-
tellettuale, riportata integralmente da Pa-
trick Tort nella prefazione al testo di Guido
Chiesura, si palesava dunque quel debito
scientifico che l’ipotesi della selezione natu-
rale scontava verso l’estesa documentazione
geo-paleontologica raccolta durante il viag-
gio a bordo del Beagle. Un debito altresı` ri-
conosciuto nell’Autobiografia, specialmente
verso gli insegnamenti di Thomas Charles
Hope, John Stevens Henslow e Adam Sedg-
wick che, a Edimburgo e a Cambridge, ave-
vano saputo incoraggiarlo nella pratica del-
l’osservazione di affioramenti e formazioni
litologiche.
Tema pertanto inedito nel panorama
delle ricerche storico-scientifiche italiane
quello presentato da Charles Darwin geolo-
go, che Chiesura ripercorre servendosi in-
nanzitutto delle fonti primarie (manoscritte
e a stampa) e, in parte, di un ancora limitato
numero di studi critici. Il testo ripropone in
uno stile chiaro e divulgativo le ambizioni
geologiche del giovane naturalista, intento
ad elaborare una teoria della Terra che fosse
semplice, come ebbe a scrivere nel 1836,
appuntando nel suo Quaderno Rosso: ‘‘Leg-
gere la geologia del N. America. India – ricor-
darsi S. Africa. Australia...isole Oceaniche.
Geologia di tutto il mondo si rivelera` sem-
plice’’. Si manifestava in tal modo un inter-
esse crescente verso un settore disciplinare
400 BOOK REVIEWS
che, sul finire del Settecento e nel primo
quarto dell’Ottocento, andava acquisendo
uno statuto epistemico autonomo, differen-
ziandosi gradualmente dalla storia naturale,
come confermato dall’istituzione, nel 1793,
della prima cattedra di geologia presso il
Muse´um National d’Histoire Naturelle di
Parigi, affidata a Barthe´ lemy Faujas de
Saint-Fond, e dalla nascita della Geological
Society of London nel 1807.
La parte centrale del testo si concentra
sulle tesi geologiche di Darwin, frutto delle
osservazioni effettuate durante il viaggio ver-
so le regioni dell’emisfero australe tra il
dicembre del 1831 e l’ottobre del 1836, il-
lustrandone la sorprendente modernita` ,
specialmente per cio` che concerne le intui-
zioni sulla formazione delle barriere coralline
e il sollevamento delle Ande in prospettiva
geodinamica, e il carattere di novita` rispetto
alla teoria della Terra di Lyell, della quale
critichera` la ciclicita` e la mancanza di uno
sviluppo direzionale. E, sebbene Chiesura
abbia adottato un metodo di analisi per la
maggior parte sincronico, tuttavia non tras-
cura il contesto storico e scientifico all’inter-
no del quale si svolse l’attivita` di Darwin.
Cosı`, se da una parte accenna alla consider-
evole diffusione delle scienze geo-paleonto-
logiche nell’Inghilterra vittoriana, aspetto
gia` esaminato dai contributi di Martin S.J.
Rudwick (Chicago, 1985) e James A. Secord
(Chicago, 2000), dall’altra, riprende la ben
nota controversia tra ‘‘nettunisti’’ e ‘‘pluto-
nisti’’, alcune questioni della quale, nei primi
decenni del XIX secolo, potevano essere
considerate ancora aperte, soprattutto nei ri-
guardi del processo di sollevamento litosfer-
ico e, pertanto, di origine delle montagne.
Oltre quindi ad esaminare un argomento
ancora poco noto nell’ambito degli studi
storico-scientifici italiani, innanzitutto in re-
lazione allo sviluppo di una teoria tettonica
della Terra, l’importanza della monografia
di Chiesura si rivela altresı ` nei riferimenti
bibliografici: l’elenco delle fonti critiche e`
infatti preceduto da una ‘‘cronobibliogra-
fia’’ delle principali opere geologiche (man-
oscritte e a stampa) di Darwin. Si segnala
infine in appendice, la lettera di William
Daniel Conybeare a Lyell (febbraio 1841),
di rilievo storiografico nel rimettere in dis-
cussione quella dicotomia tra ‘‘attualisti’’ e
‘‘catastrofisti’’, troppo spesso abusata ed
apparentemente corroborata da modelli in-
terpretativi che soppesano lo sviluppo della
scienza nell’ottica riduttiva di paradigmi
contrapposti e ‘‘rivoluzioni scientifiche’’.
Segue a due anni di distanza, per i mede-
simi tipi della Hevelius, un’antologia critica,
curata dallo stesso Chiesura, dei tre volumi
che compongono The Geology of the Voy-
age of H.S.M. Beagle, editi separatamente
tra il 1842 e il 1846: The Structure and Dis-
tribution of Coral Reefs (1842); Geological
Observations on the Volcanic Islands visited
during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, together
with some brief Notices of the Geology of
Australia and the Cape of Good Hope
(1844); Geological Observations on South
America (1846). Per la prima volta tradotti
in lingua italiana, ad esclusione del testo
del 1842, gia` pubblicato da Giovanni Ca-
nestrini nel 1888 col titolo Sulla struttura e
distribuzione dei banchi di corallo e delle
isole madreporiche, si ripropone cosı ` l’essen-
ziale degli scritti geologici di Darwin. In ap-
pendice segue la versione integrale del sag-
gio sulle relazioni tra orogenesi ed attivita`
vulcanica (Sulla connessione che esiste tra
certi fenomeni vulcanici nel Sud America, e
sulla formazione di catene di montagne e di
vulcani come effetti della stessa forza che sol-
leva i continenti), letto il 7 marzo del 1838
alla Geological Society of London, al quale
seguono le tavole, redatte dallo stesso Dar-
win, riguardanti: le sezioni geologiche della
Cordigliera delle Ande e la distribuzione
geografica delle isole vulcaniche e delle bar-
riere coralline. Tra gli apparati si segnala in-
oltre un utile glossario dei termini tecnico-
scientifici.
ANDREA CANDELA
WILLIAM CLARK, Academic Charisma and the
Origins of the Research University. Chica-
go: The University of Chicago Press,
2006. 576 pp., ISNB 0-226-10921-6.
The work under review is two very dif-
ferent books under the same cover. On
BOOK REVIEWS 401
one level, it is an objective and solidly docu-
mented contribution to the historiographi-
cal debate over the development of the
nineteenth-century research university in
Protestant northern Germany. On another,
it is a subjective and earnest investigation
into the modern university and its ills writ-
ten in a demotic and personal style which
academic historians traditionally avoid.
Both books are insightful. The first adds
considerably to the revisionist argument de-
veloped by R. Stephen Turner and others in
the last twenty-five years that the research
university was not the fruit of German Ide-
alism and the foundation of the University
of Berlin in 1810 but an eighteenth-century
invention, the creature of cameralist state-
building. It does so by seeing the research
university as an aspect of Weberian moder-
nisation. This then allows him to demon-
strate the extent to which the Protestant
German universities of the eighteenth cen-
tury already betrayed the hall-marks of a
‘‘rational’’ rather than a ‘‘traditional’’ insti-
tution in their organisation: subject speciali-
sation, a meritocratic professoriate, the ob-
jective evaluation of student abilities etc.
In the course of the eighteenth century,
the author argues, university teachers in
northern Germany became ‘‘disembodied’’:
appointment and promotion ideally had
nothing to do with their background or
connections or their oral abilities as lec-
turers or debaters: everything came to hinge
on the size and impact of their publication
list. The second book, much more anecdo-
tally, looks at the ‘‘ghost in the machine’’,
the aspects of the traditional, medieval uni-
versity which continue to haunt the present
day. Academic appointments, we are told,
are far less rational than one might suppose,
for evaluation still turns on subjective criter-
ia, such as oral performance at conferences,
gossip and off-the-record telephone refer-
ences, while many academic scientists and
medics are not specialised impartial seekers
after truth but the subsidised agents of drug
companies and commercial interests. The
thread that holds the two books together
is ‘‘charisma’’. Teachers in the medieval uni-
versity did not have charisma, or, if they
had it, it was a reflection of their office:
the robes and the chair that they sat on gave
them a special authority. The modern uni-
versity, on the other hand, is built on perso-
nal charisma, as much as it is built on bu-
reaucratic values. In some degree, this
stems from the Idealist and Romantic rede-
finition of the researcher as an original
scholar and genius and not the utilitarian
data-collector of the Enlightenment, but it
also reflects the emphasis placed on publi-
cation, part of the ‘‘rationalising’’ process it-
self. The evaluation of an academic’s publi-
cations cannot be easily controlled by the
ministry of education or the university: as
a result, scholarly ‘‘fame’’ from the mid-
eighteenth century was never an objective
attribute but one manufactured and ma-
nipulated in the market-place. In other
words, the modern university, pace the
rhetoric, was built on the twin pillars of bu-
reaucracy and capitalism with potentially
damaging results.
It is impossible in a short space to do jus-
tice to this work. Historians of science and
higher education should read it simply for
the invaluable information that it provides
on the transition from the medieval to the
modern university. The use of Weber’s
three types of legitimate authority to frame
the argument is original and effective, espe-
cially as the author properly emphasises that
the German model mutated as it was taken
up by the rest of the western world in the
second half of the nineteenth century. Even
more impressive to the historian are the
sources that Clark uses to clarify and sub-
stantiate the argument. Besides obvious
points of entry – state visitations, travelo-
gues, letters and so on – the author uses a
number of rebarbative archival sources,
which have been largely neglected by for-
mer historians of the early modern univer-
sity, such as lecture lists, student evaluation
forms, professorial dossiers and library cat-
alogues. He also exploits visual material to
good effect. This, then, is a book based
on lengthy and careful research. The pre-
sentist leitmotif, too, though occasionally
annoying and making the book longer than
it need be, will give any academic reader
402 BOOK REVIEWS
pause for thought. Over the past thirty
years, social historians of science have quer-
ied (sometimes gently, sometimes not) the
claims of the modern scientist, especially
medical scientists, to be disinterested re-
searchers after truth and shown how knowl-
edge is socially constructed. But their gaze
has fallen on wider society – its language,
concerns and structure. No-one hitherto,
to the best of my knowledge, has looked
specifically at the institution in which so
much of modern science is created – the
university. By looking at the long-standing
‘‘irrational’’ mote in the university’s own
eye, Clark performs an uncomfortable ser-
vice which should encourage any reader to
take a long hard look at his or her own aca-
demic life.
LAURENCE BROCKLISS
JEFFREY CRELINSTEN, Einstein’s Jury. The Race
to Test Relativity. Princeton and Oxford:
Princeton University Press, 2006. XXIX+
397 pp., ISBN: 978-0-691-12310-3.
Historical accounts of the development
of one or another natural science given by
people active in the field are usually mythi-
cal: it is not what actually took place that is
presented, but a more or less rational recon-
struction of the events that suits the present
views. Historians of science, by contrast,
base their accounts on first hand docu-
ments, thus providing a much more reliable
account of the events.
Considering the many brilliant examples
of this kind of studies that have been car-
ried out in the last decades, one would be
inclined to think that the paths followed
by the various branches of physics, astrono-
my and astrophysics in the course of the
twentieth century should by now hide no
further relevant aspects. We should how-
ever be warned against this conclusion by
the obvious consideration that no historical
account – no matter what the field – can be
really exhaustive.
Crelinsten gives us an accurate recon-
struction of how astronomers, mostly in
the United States, tested the predictions of
General Relativity concerning the three
standard effects: the anomalous precession
of Mercury’s perihelion, the deviation of
light rays by the Sun and the gravitational
redshift. And his fine book fully confirms
the point, insofar as the author demon-
strates, by thoroughly examining a large
amount of documents, that many details es-
caped mention in previous accounts, so
many were the trees one did not look at,
that one ended up outlining a scarcely rea-
listic picture of the forest, to the point of
leaving us with a largely biased reconstruc-
tion.
As the author stresses ‘‘There has been a
tendency to simplify the historical picture
[...] largely because the 1919 British verifi-
cation of Einstein’s light-bending predic-
tion launched Einstein and his theory to in-
ternational fame [...] The British eclipse
results and the ensuing explosion of publi-
city have overshadowed the historical reali-
ties’’ (p. 321).
These historical realities concern more
than one essential aspect. First and fore-
most, to the eyes of a large part of the scien-
tific community those results did not in the
least appear decisive. The second and in
some ways substantially new aspect is that
far from being limited to the special rela-
tionship between Einstein and Freundlich,
the plan to test that specific effect on the
occasion of an eclipse had seen a substantial
number of American astronomers involved
from an early stage. Even the tradition that
ascribes tout-court a quick and definitive
conclusion of the controversy to the mea-
surements by William Campbell and cowor-
kers made on the occasion of the 1922
eclipse should be duly re-examined. Camp-
bell’s admirable scruples and unbiased ap-
proach led him in fact to postpone a final
communication for years. There is another
series of events which are given circumstan-
tial evidence, with the consequence of pro-
viding us with a much more detailed pic-
ture, namely the tantalizing series of
studies of the solar spectra, which were con-
ducted for the purpose – among other
things – of testing Einstein’s prediction of
BOOK REVIEWS 403
a gravitational redshift; this appears, in Cre-
linsten’s account, to have led to much more
animated debate than is commonly re-
ported.
Nor is this the end of the story. Another
aspect the author lays stress on is the cir-
cumstance that almost nobody – with a
few exceptions, such as Campbell’s first-
rate coworker Robert Trumpler – appears
to have shared any knowledge whatsoever
of the theory whose predictions they were
trying to test, to the extent that many of
them generically referred to its essential
content as ‘‘the principle of relativity’’, from
which it may be easily inferred that they did
not make any distinction between the spe-
cial and the general theory. As a result, a
verdict on ‘‘Einstein’s theory’’ was given
when Michelson’s 1928 repetition of the
ether-drift experiment showed no effect
whatsoever and Michelson’s results thus
stand alongside Campbell’s painstaking
work on the result of the Lick experiment
of 1922 and the Lick and Mount Wilson
measurements of the gravitational redshift.
The author stresses that the story he has
told liberates us from a rigid understanding
of how the scientific community accepts
scientific theories. ‘‘It is a messy process’’,
he says (p. 321). Quite so. But nevertheless,
except when the mess is aggravated by the
intervention of cranks (the book gives us a
few fine examples), an altogether rational
process, which eventually leads to a better
understanding of nature.
SILVIO BERGIA
ALBERT EINSTEIN, The Collected Papers of
Albert Einstein, Volume 10: The Berlin
Years: Correspondence, May-December
1920, and Supplementary Corresponden-
ce, 1909-1920. Princeton and Oxford:
Princeton University Press, 2006. LXIX+
686 pp., ISBN 978-0-691-12825-2.
Volume 10 of The Collected Papers of Al-
bert Einstein was meant to host correspon-
dence items for the period from May
through December 1920. The first part of
the volume additionally presents 211 letters
which are supplementary to the correspon-
dence already published in Volumes 5, 6
and 9, dating from the period between
May 1909 and April 1920. Part of these let-
ters originate from the bequest of family
correspondence deposited in the Albert
Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem by Margot Einstein, who stipu-
lated that it should remain closed for twenty
years after her death. The remaining letters
were obtained from other repositories.
Material of this kind presents generally
elements of interest on different levels, since
it can shed light on an author’s personal life
and provide insight into his/her involve-
ment in events of general historical rele-
vance, his/her relationships with colleagues
and with the intellectual elite and, finally, is-
sues concerning his/her research activity.
Concerning the first level, I will just men-
tion that the letters dating from the years
1909 through 1920 provide new source ma-
terial about Einstein’s relationships with his
relatives and his closest friends. In this vo-
lume letters written by Hans Albert and
Eduard Einstein are presented for the first
time. Of some relevance is Einstein’s corre-
spondence with Heinrich Zangger, a profes-
sor of forensic medicine who had supported
Einstein’s appointment to a chair of theore-
tical physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology.
As far as the second level is concerned,
readers ought perhaps to be reminded to
begin with that 1920 was the year of the no-
torious Bad Nauheim meeting of the Ge-
sellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher und
A
¨
rzte, where Einstein became involved in
a quarrel on relativity with Philipp Lenard.
This episode was by no means an isolated
one. In the Introduction, the editors men-
tion an entire series of events which took
place during that year: from acrimonious
critiques of relativity to charges of plagiar-
ism against Einstein, all accompanied by
anti-Semitic insinuations. These public
events of course constitute an important to-
pic in Einstein’s biography. The emotions
they stirred up is documented in various let-
404 BOOK REVIEWS
ters written by such authors as Ernst Cas-
sirer, Fritz Haber and Max Planck. It sur-
prised me that Planck, given the severe im-
age associated with him, would qualify one
of these attacks as a ‘‘kaum glaubliche
Schweinerei’’ in his letter.
As to the third level, the period in ques-
tion was characterized, among other things,
by the circumstance that philosophers had
started reflecting on the epistemological im-
plications of relativity. Correspondence be-
tween Einstein and Moritz Schlick, Cassirer
and Hans Reichenbach on these subjects is
amply documented in the volume. Of parti-
cular interest are of course Einstein’s rela-
tions with fellow physicists and mathemati-
cians. They include Niels Bohr, H.A.
Lorentz, Max von Laue, Paul Ehrenfest,
Max Born, Arnold Sommerfeld, Marcel
Grossmann, Willem de Sitter, Walther
Nernst, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, Tullio
Levi Civita, and Arthur Eddington.
These letters deal with a variety of sub-
jects, including physics proper (fourth le-
vel), as in the case of the GR prediction of
light deflection by the sun and attempts at
measuring the effect. On 6 November
1919 Eddington and his collaborators told
the astronomers and scientists attending
the celebrated joint meeting of the Royal
Society and the Royal Astronomical Society
that the British eclipse observers had found
a deflection of stellar light in agreement
with Einstein’s theory. Einstein had started
receiving partial reports on the matter in
mid-August 1919. In a letter to Eddington,
dated 11 June 1920, while acknowledging
he had received direct information, he ex-
pressed his joy ‘‘at sharing with the English
astronomers’’ the success of their research
although ‘‘with some delay’’. In a letter to
Elsa dated 23 October, Einstein wrote:
‘‘The plates of the expeditions are now (de-
finitively) measured. My theory has been
exactly confirmed with the greatest think-
able precision [...]. Now no reasonable
man can anymore doubt the correctness of
my theory’’. [My translation] This was
not, however, the end of the story: not only
unreasonable, but also reasonable, men
continued to harbour some doubts; as
documented in a fine recent book by Jeffrey
Crelinsten, Einstein’s Jury – The Race to
Test Relativity, the final (positive) verdict
on ‘‘Einstein’s theory’’ was only given in
1928 when William Campbell completed
his painstaking work on the result of the
Lick eclipse experiment of 1922. Mean-
while Einstein had probably maintained
the attitude he had showed once talking
with the astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung:
‘‘I think – wrote the latter to Eddington –
he inwardly considers these tests as a mere
cerimony’’ (p. 222n). Quite an interesting
clue to Einstein’s views about the physical
world.
SILVIO BERGIA
PHILIPP FELSCH, Laborlandschaften. Physio-
logische Alpenreisen im 19. Jahrhundert,
Go¨ ttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2007. 254
pp., ISBN 3-8353-0159-7.
The huge, silent and sublime alpine
peaks are the fascinating set of this interest-
ing work. Philipp Felsch, a young German
researcher working in Zu¨ rich, presents
new aspects of the multifaceted relationship
between man and mountain, whose inacces-
sible landscapes enchanted so many genera-
tions, from Rousseau to de Saussure. This
well told story is indeed a cultural history
of Alps physiology in the nineteenth cen-
tury. A story with a lot of characters, but
one main protagonist: Angelo Mosso
(1846-1910), one of the best known Italian
experimental physiologist of the time. The
essay’s main focus is on his researches and
experiments, his curves and drafts of the
physiological functions of the human body,
all kept at Angelo Mosso’s Library in Turin,
where Felsch developed his research on ma-
terials still largely unknown.
Mountains appear as a cultural construc-
tion. From the Romantic Movement to the
Positivism, travellers, writers, poets, pain-
ters, photographers, tourists and also scien-
tists, explorers and mountaineers have
climbed the Alps with different aims, seeing
different things: to contemplate nature, to
BOOK REVIEWS 405
feel delightful terror, to follow a fashion, to
practise sport or to prove the human body’s
possibilities and register objectively its be-
haviour and its physiological states – first
of all the state of fatigue, deeply studied
by Mosso. The essay, subdivided into four
well articulated chapters, begins with an
evocative fresco of the opening of Mosso’s
experimental station for physiology on
Monte Rosa in August 1907. At an altitude
of 3,000 metres, in front of the Queen Mar-
gherita refuge and a lot of journalists, scien-
tists, tourists and men of the institutions,
Mosso – as a scientist and a senator – cele-
brates his personal achievements.
Physiologists like Mosso seemed to have
found a more fitting laboratory to conduct
their experiments in: the Alps. There,
where nature is immense, life is more in-
tense and feelings are extreme. At the end
of the first chapter Mosso leaves Turin’s
noisy streets and brings his instruments to
the Alps in search of a different reality. Like
other physiologists of his time he decided to
work under the sky in these sublime Labor-
landschaften (laboratory landscapes), as the
book’s title sounds. Around 1900 over the
inhospitable Alps peaks we do not find
the solitary and horrible Dr. Frankenstein’s
creature anymore, but Mosso and his assis-
tants, engaged in registering and gauging
human body reactions and behaviours un-
der extreme conditions.
One of Felsch’s theses is that the Alps
were no longer only an uncontaminated
shelter from modern civilization, big-city
noises and industries, or a sanatorium to re-
store health, but also a silent and exhausting
physiological laboratory. Work is hard
there, and every movement means fatigue.
As the author points out, speaking about
the rising ‘‘science of work’’, Mosso does
not investigate fatigue in the most proble-
matic places of modern time such as indus-
tries, schools or big cities, but goes far away
from civilization.
Through the pages, Felsch shows how
the Alps from theatre of the romantic sub-
lime slowly became the ideal set of a phy-
siology laboratory. A cultural change well
symbolized by Mosso’s researches. The sev-
eral curves of blood pressure, respiration
and muscular movements – a sort of ‘‘phy-
siological relics’’ achieved thanks to the
Professor’s set of instruments (p. 125) –
replace the pictorial visions of the roman-
tic traveller; as the subtitle of the third
chapter says, sublime becomes exhaustion.
But what is the nature of Mosso’s drafts?
Are they artificial or expressions of an ob-
jective mechanic? To investigate this pro-
blem Felsch uses the language of contem-
porary image theories and explains
Mosso’s curves also as a case of scientific
visualization.
In the second chapter Felsch emphasizes
the bond during Mosso’s times between
physiology and the increasing enthusiasm
of Italian academicians for mountaineering,
an activity charged with meanings related to
the recently achieved Risorgimento. Mosso
represents indeed a mixture of the Risorgi-
mento’s emphasis, romantic enthusiasm
for nature and love for science (p. 83).
But this essay, published in the history of
science series edited by Michael Hagner
and Hans-Jo¨ rg Rheinberger, is not only a
book on Mosso, but mainly a book about
some theoretical problems he brought out,
such as scientific visualization, physiological
methods and both aesthetics and scientific
perception of the mountain. One of the
most interesting aspects of this work is in-
deed the unusual ‘‘marriage’’ between dif-
ferent subjects as aesthetics, physiology, his-
tory of science and, in a more general sense,
history of culture. As said in the introduc-
tion, this cultural history of Alps physiology
is linked to three branches of studies, con-
cerning history of physiology, the graphic
methods and the Alps travel in the nine-
teenth century (p. 15). It is the union be-
tween these three elements that fully ex-
presses the originality of this work about
the human struggle to reach the summit.
ELENA CANADELLI
ELISABETH R. NESWALD, Thermodynamik
als Kultureller Kampfplatz. Zur Faszina-
406 BOOK REVIEWS
tionsgeschichte. Berling: Verlag, 2006.
475 pp., ISBN 3-7930-9448-0.
Elizabeth Neswald’s study can be taken
as a notable example for the importance
of cultural studies in the history of sciences.
This is partly due to her topic which is ex-
tremely well chosen: the debates and con-
troversies that took place from the second
half of the nineteenth to the early twentieth
century, with respect to the meaning of the
concept of entropy in various fields. Nes-
wald explains the choice of her topic expli-
citly; according to her study, the concept of
entropy is particularly appropriate as it is
semantically underdetermined as well as
complex, yet it also claims a general validity.
Therefore, this concept became relevant in
various discourses, among them those of
physicists, physiologists, economists, philo-
sophers, and theologians (p. 23).
Yet, it is not only the chosen topic which
makes this study so relevant and convincing
but also the overall approach. Instead of fo-
cusing on the genesis of the concept of en-
tropy, Neswald’s central topic is the ques-
tion of how this concept was transformed
into cultural knowledge. Her approach is
explicitly meant to be an expansion of the
Edinburgh school of sociology of scientific
knowledge and the science in context ap-
proach in the history of science (p. 21). Par-
ticularly in this context, her study is very
convincing: the discussion of how the con-
cept of entropy became relevant in various
discourses shows particularly well the open-
ness and the resulting ability of interpreting
this concept in different manners. Yet, Nes-
wald does not limit herself to describing
this aspect, but embeds it into the cultural
meanings that were ascribed to these inter-
pretations. Consequently, these discussions
can be interpreted as controversies that re-
sulted from different cultural positions,
and the ‘‘scientific’’ arguments can be iden-
tified as their expressions. As a result of this
analysis, a complex and novel image is de-
veloped with remarkable clarity.
The book itself can be divided into two
parts – in the first part, the development
of the concept of entropy is sketched. Here,
besides steam engines and the development
of thermodynamics, cosmological aspects
are also identified with respect to the emer-
gence of the concept of entropy. This part is
a clear description of how entropy and en-
ergy conservation were developed. Yet,
from my point of view, it is the second part
of the study that makes it so recommend-
able.
Here, initially Neswald starts in the
sciences and makes it obvious how complex
and difficult the coherent interpretation of
the entropy was. This complexity is rele-
vant, as it shows the scope of interpretation
that remained after the formulation of the
concept. In what follows, she discusses the
implications that historical actors derived
from the entropy concept for cosmological
models and the end of the world, for the
character of living and the development of
the (European) society. Here, fundamental
theological as well as philosophical beliefs
were expressed in interpreting entropy in
a manner that seemed to be adequate on
the basis of these attitudes. Particularly
the (historical) discussions on the end of
progress and the limits of resources have
very recently got a topicality that historical
studies normally do not develop. But also
the discussion on what life means and
how it can be interpreted goes significantly
beyond the scope of most historical studies.
If there is one aspect to be criticised, it is
the chosen language. The study is published
in German and by this choice, Neswald has
limited her readership; a limitation that
seems to me totally unjustified for such a re-
markable study.
PETER HEERING
ROBERTA PASSIONE (ed.), Ugo Cerletti. Scrit-
ti sull’elettroshock. Milano: Angeli, 2006.
236 pp., ISBN 88-464-7823-1.
‘‘In cosa consiste essenzialmente l’Elet-
troshock? ... nel trasmettere un urto elettri-
co al cervello – il brevissimo passaggio di
una corrente alternata intorno ai 125 V,
per 1-5 decimi di secondo – allo scopo di
BOOK REVIEWS 407
provocare, da parte del cervello, una parti-
colare reazione, che e` l’attacco epilettico.
L’elettricita` ha solo la funzione di mezzo,
di stimolo (e ve ne sono tanti altri) per sca-
tenare l’attacco. Certo, fra i mezzi che cono-
sciamo, appare il piu` semplice, il piu` ‘puli-
to’, il piu` innocuo... Il fattore curativo non
e` l’elettricita` , ma l’accesso, meglio diremo
ora, il coma epilettico’’ (p. 145).
Con queste parole Ugo Cerletti descrive
sinteticamente la sua invenzione, strumento
al tempo stesso terapeutico e di ricerca uti-
lizzato per la prima volta nel 1938 su un pa-
ziente affetto da schizofrenia. La prima cosa
da sottolineare e` la chiarezza con la quale ri-
badisce la natura meramente strumentale
della scarica elettrica, volta essenzialmente
alla produzione di uno shock convulsivo
considerato il vero fattore terapeutico alla
luce di una teoria della malattia mentale co-
me esito dell’abbattimento delle energie in-
dividuali e degli istinti di sopravvivenza.
L’assunto teorico di partenza e` una conce-
zione patogenetica organicista della malattia
mentale, nel caso specifico delle due grandi
psicosi ‘‘inclassificabili’’, ossia le psicosi af-
fettive e la schizofrenia, concepite come con-
seguenze di ‘‘perturbamenti di quella porzio-
ne dell’encefalo (ipotalamo – diencefalo) che
presiede alle funzioni istintivo-affettivo-
emotive’’ (ibid.). Si pone quindi una questio-
ne di capacita` adattative, di funzioni biologi-
che di base legate alla sopravvivenza dell’or-
ganismo e dunque essenzialmente mediate
dalle strutture piu` profonde, e piu` ‘‘arcai-
che’’, del cervello: quelle preposte alla gestio-
ne delle emozioni, lo strumento adattativo
principale di cui la natura ha dotato il vivente
per consentirgli un’interazione efficace con
l’ambiente. Le teorie psicobiologiche delle
emozioni, quella ‘‘periferica’’ di James-Lan-
ge e quella formulata da Cannon nel 1915 e
detta ‘‘centralista’’ in opposizione alla prima,
si pongono dunque come termini di riferi-
mento principali, nell’ambito di una piu` am-
pia cornice teorica di tipo evoluzionistico che
comporta da un lato la fiducia in una meto-
dologia sperimentale comparata, dall’altro
la convinzione che tutte le capacita` mentali
umane siano profondamente radicate nella
biologia, ‘‘incorporate’’ come oggi si dice,
tanto nel loro nascere e giungere a pieno svi-
luppo quanto nel loro ‘‘incepparsi’’ produ-
cendo disagi e disturbi comportamentali e
cognitivi di vario tipo. Cerletti infatti afferma
con chiarezza che l’efficacia del metodo da
lui ideato nei confronti delle psicosi e` per
l’appunto dovuta ‘‘alla violenta attivazione
dei sopradetti meccanismi piu` vitali, a difesa
dell’individuo, per la quale sono chiamate in
causa tutte le reazioni di riserva che giaccio-
no latenti nel sistema nervoso e nell’organi-
smo intero’’ (p. 146).
Il libro di Roberta Passione, Ugo Cerletti.
Scritti sull’elettroshock, presenta nei detta-
gli, e con rara efficacia narrativa, la figura
di Cerletti nel suo divenire: prima studente,
poi neurologo, ricercatore e professore uni-
versitario, infine celebre inventore di una
‘‘tecnica rivoluzionaria’’ per il trattamento
della schizofrenia. L’autrice ne cura una
buona selezione di scritti pubblicati fra il
1940 e il 1952, di cui ricostruisce le premes-
se concettuali e metodologiche nonche´ il
percorso teorico complessivo, guardando
ai testi in primo luogo alla luce del contesto
storico, ideologico e sociale, quindi cercan-
do nelle pieghe del linguaggio i tratti piu`
umani del vissuto individuale.
Da questo punto di vista, proprio a pro-
posito dello stile particolarmente piacevole
dell’esposizione, e` utile ricordare che di re-
cente l’autrice ha pubblicato anche un altro
volume su Cerletti che porta nel sottotitolo
la dicitura ‘‘il romanzo dell’elettroshock’’
(Ugo Cerletti. Il romanzo dell’elettroshock.
Reggio Emilia: Aliberti Editore, 2007) pro-
prio a significare la determinazione, oltre
che di mettere a fuoco uno dei protagonisti
piu` discussi della ricerca scientifica italiana
del primo Novecento, di andare oltre la vul-
gata critica pregiudizialmente antipsichiatri-
ca degli anni sessanta settanta e di guardare
all’autentico spessore, umano prima che
scientifico, della sua opera.
Sarebbe interessante ripercorrere il lavoro
dell’autrice e soffermarsi sui tanti spunti e
motivi di interesse che esso offre per quanti
si occupino di storia della scienza e soprat-
tutto della storia delle conoscenze sulla men-
te, sul sistema nervoso e sul comportamento
dell’uomo; in primo luogo le condizioni della
408 BOOK REVIEWS
ricerca italiana in quegli anni e i suoi protago-
nisti, da Tamburini a Luciani e a Perusini,
quindi il contesto teorico di riferimento, gli
stretti legami con gli esponenti piu` autorevoli
della ricerca neuroscientifica internazionale
(da Nissl ad Alzheimer e a Kraepelin) e con-
temporaneamente con il potere locale, primo
interlocutore di quanti fossero motivati ad
espandere gli spazi angusti della ricerca pur
senza rinunciare a seguirne in prima persona
le ricadute applicative, cliniche. Per necessita`
di sintesi, tuttavia, mi piace concludere sot-
tolineando che il volume chiarisce, in modo
interessante e a tratti appassionante, come
‘‘l’immagine del medico atterrito di fronte
al suo tentativo terapeutico rivela forse me-
glio di altre il senso d’avventura che animava
la psichiatria della prima meta` del Novecen-
to, contraddistinguendone il processo di ri-
cerca e acquisizione di uno status disciplina-
re scientifico’’ (p. 41). E come la dimensione
‘‘pionieristica’’ degli studi di quegli anni sulle
basi fisiche della mente e sulla neurochimica
cerebrale fosse tuttavia sempre legata ad una
profonda consapevolezza della portata etica
e politica, oltre che scientifica, di un’attivita`
di ricerca mirata alla scoperta di terapie psi-
chiatriche sempre piu` ‘‘umane’’. Roberta
Passione infatti lavora efficacemente a una ri-
costruzione storiografica che metta in luce la
vita e l’opera di Cerletti superando gli stereo-
tipi dell’antipsichiatria che ne hanno fatto un
simbolo dell’ ‘‘ideologia dell’annientamen-
to’’ e uno ‘‘spietato silenziatore del dissenso
e del disagio’’. Eloquenti in proposito, le pa-
role dello stesso Cerletti: ‘‘mi auguro che
questo metodo, aggressivo e violento, venga
al piu` presto abbandonato per metodi meno
drastici, e sto lavorando attivamente in que-
sto senso’’ (p. 47).
CARMELA MORABITO
MARC J. RATCLIFF, MARTINE RUCHAT (eds.),
Les Laboratoires de l’esprit. Une histoire
de la psychologie a` Gene`ve, 1892-1965.
Gene` ve: Muse´ e d’Histoire des Sciences
de Gene` ve, 2006. 181 pp., ISBN 2-606-
01215-1.
The book was inspired both by the cen-
tenary of the birth of the psychologist An-
dre´ Rey and by the exhibition on the history
of psychology laboratories in Geneva be-
tween 1892 and 1965. It deals with one of
the most intriguing historiographical topics
of recent years, namely the study, the inven-
tion and the use of those instruments which
contributed significantly to the progressive
transformation of psychology, and the con-
version of a philosophical discipline into a
scientific one. Unlike previous books, which
focused on the scientific research of Gene-
va-based psychologists such as E. Clapar-
e` de, J. Piaget, etc., the three parts of this
book deal for the first time with the instru-
ments of the Swiss psychological labora-
tories and, as M. Ratcliff, M. Ruchat and
S. Fischer affirm in the Introduction
(p. 11), they ‘‘offer reflections which are
useful starting points for anyone wishing
to understand the general dynamics of Gen-
evan and European psychology’’. The dif-
ferent authors who contribute to the book
therefore have a common aim.
The first part gives an account of the psy-
chology laboratory in Geneva, which
opened on 15
th
February 1892 in the base-
ment of the Universite´ des Bastions. It be-
gins with M. Ruchat’s essay, which presents
an analytical overview of the first 50 years of
the laboratories (from 1892 to 1937) and
explains the meaning of the book’s evoca-
tive and unusual title: Laboratories of the
Spirit should underline, according to Ru-
chat, the firm belief of Genevan psycholo-
gists in scientific methodology and in the
measurement of all psychic phenomena.
When the chair of ‘‘Physiological and ex-
perimental psychology’’ was founded in
May 1891, it was no coincidence that it
was in the Faculty of Sciences and not, like
Wundt’s, in the Faculty of Philosophy
(p. 37). The physical layout of the Genevan
laboratories, which rates only a mention in
this first essay, is closely examined in the es-
say by M. J. Ratcliff, P. Borella, and E. Pi-
guet. A comparison of various American
and European laboratories opened in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth century,
is followed by a description of the subdivi-
13
BOOK REVIEWS 409
sion of the rooms where ‘‘the process of
specialization [...] led to the laboratory
space being split into areas devoted to each
of the five senses’’ (p. 49). The second part
of the essay is of particular interest to his-
torians of psychology, as it focuses upon
the instruments of the Genevan laboratory
and provides useful information about the
factories where they were made.
After an essay by R. Hofstetter and B.
Schneuwly which deals with the relation-
ship between the laboratory and the educa-
tional sciences, the second part of the book
provides an introduction to the various dis-
ciplinary branches treated in the labora-
tories between 1937 and 1965, M.J. Ratcliff
and M. Ruchat examine E. Clapare` de’s ap-
plication of the experimental methodology
of psychology to clinical medicine, an inno-
vation subsequently adopted by Rey which
then led in 1937 to the foundation of a
new psychological laboratory at the Gene-
van Hoˆ pital Cantonal.
The next essay concerns a Piagetian ex-
perimental topic which, as M.J. Ratcliff
and Cl.-A. Hauert state in the title, is ‘‘un-
known’’. It concerns the development of
perceptions and optical illusions, a subject
which has always fascinated psychologists.
In fact, in the 1940s and 1950s J. Piaget
and some of his collaborators (M. Lamber-
cier, A. Morf, B. von Albertini, etc.) de-
voted themselves to this topic. Ratcliff and
Hauert throw useful light on the issue.
Against the background of the key his-
torical developments in experimental psy-
chology V. Verdon and Hauert re-evaluate
Rey’s test of the complex figure by compar-
ing his methodology with Piaget’s.
The book concludes with Ratcliff’s essay.
Its aim is to show why the Genevan labora-
tory became a model. ‘‘One of the determin-
ing factors – he writes – was the transmission
of a laboratory ‘spirit’, of knowledge and of
savoir-faire, characterised by simplicity’’
(p. 137). Simplicity was therefore the spirit
of the Genevan laboratory. Ratcliff is clever
at showing this!
The appeal of the book is enhanced by its
rich illustrations.
MARIA SINATRA
INKEN REBENTROST, Das Labor in der Box.
Technikentwicklung und Unternehmen-
gru¨ndung in der fru¨hen deutschen Biotech-
nologie. Mu¨ nchen: Verlag, 2006. 310 pp.,
ISBN 978-3-406-54403-3.
Inken Rebentrost’s book Das Labor in
der Box – the lab in the box – is a thor-
oughly researched study of the establish-
ment of DIAGEN (later renamed QIA-
GEN) and the development of its most
successful product, a ready-to-use kit for
the quick and easy separation of nucleic
acids from various sources. Founded in
1984 by three post-docs and a university
professor, DIAGEN was not only a pioneer
among German biotech start-ups, but also
one of the few that were actually able to
generate profits. A must read for anyone in-
terested in the rise of the new biotechnol-
ogy in Germany, this book offers an intri-
guing analysis of the interdependence
between the processes of company estab-
lishment and product innovation taking
place in a rapidly changing environment.
Rebentrost divides her book into seven
chapters. Chapters one to three establish
the research context and historical back-
ground of the study. The emphasis is on
the history of instruments and methods
used in molecular biology research and on
the (slow) growth of the biotechnology sec-
tor in Germany. The core of the study is
formed by chapters four and five, which
deal with the development of DIAGEN
and its ready-to-use kit in the period from
about 1978 to 1993. These chapters draw
on published and unpublished sources from
the company’s archive complemented by
more than twenty oral history interviews,
which Rebentrost conducted with the pro-
tagonists of her story. Chapter six analyses
the interorganisational networks character-
ising the different phases in the company’s
early history, and chapter seven gives a
short resume.
Although DIAGEN developed into a
market leader in separation technologies
for molecular biology, the company’s early
history is not a simple success story. In fact,
there were several points where it looked
410 BOOK REVIEWS
very much as though the start-up would fail.
As Rebentrost argues, the company’s ulti-
mate success was based on its ability to ra-
dically change its business model and occu-
py an emerging market niche. According to
the first business plans, DIAGEN was envi-
sioned as a research and development firm
specialised in molecular diagnostics for
plant and human pathogens. Separation
technologies played only a minor role.
However, the young start-up had serious
problems getting enough money from pub-
lic and private agencies for its ambitious
R&D goals. In order to prevent bankruptcy,
the company had to focus on projects that
could generate profit in a short period of
time. As a consequence, DIAGEN moved
into the development, production and mar-
keting of separation technologies for nucleic
acids. Analysing the dynamics of the com-
pany’s inner and outer networks, Reben-
trost demonstrates that this move was a
slow and troublesome process shaped by fi-
nancial constraints, scientific interests, per-
sonal relationships, and cultural attitudes –
to name but a few of the relevant factors.
While DIAGEN’s shift to separation tech-
nologies proved to be the right choice at a
time when a fast growing number of aca-
demic researchers entered the field of ge-
netic engineering, it led to the transforma-
tion of a research and development firm
into a provider of laboratory supplies.
But this is only half of the story since the
transformation of DIAGEN was also tightly
linked to the invention of the ready-to-use
kit that formed the basis of the company’s
success. The history of the kit can be traced
back to the doctoral years of DIAGEN’s
co-founder Metin Colpan who at that time
developed a high-performance liquid chro-
matography for the separation of nucleic
acids. Rebentrost gives a detailed account
of how this technology was turned into a
product able to compete with traditional se-
paration methods. Although technical crea-
tivity played an important role, the crucial
point in this process was that DIAGEN
came in close contact with customers when
the company changed its business model
and started its own sales activities. It was
these contacts that enabled DIAGEN to
learn how to meet the needs of academic re-
searchers and to develop a product for an
emerging market niche. As Rebentrost’s
book makes clear, the lab in the box was
as much a product of DIAGEN as of mole-
cular biologists seeking a technology to get
rid of tedious laboratory routines.
THOMAS WIELAND
LAURA J. SNYDER, Reforming Philosophy: A
Victorian Debate on Science and Society.
Chicago and London: The University of
Chicago Press, 2006. X+386 pp., ISBN
0-226-76733-7.
John Stuart Mill and William Whewell
were towering intellectuals in their own
time and place and to a large extent remain
so to this day. Though they never met in the
flesh, Mill and Whewell were old enemies.
They played out their battles in the quar-
terly reviews and in the weighty tomes that
formed the front line for so much Victorian
intellectual warfare. Their debates were
wide ranging, embracing scientific method,
morality, political economy and reform.
Both men were inveterate system builders.
Whatever the disagreed about – and they
disagreed violently about almost everything
– they were at one in the belief that neither
science nor anything else that mattered for
Victorian society could be looked at in iso-
lation. This makes it all the more surprising
that they themselves have so rarely been
studied in context. Laura Snyder’s book is
an attempt to address that absence.
Broadly speaking, Snyder’s book can be
divided into two parts. After dealing with
introductory material, her first two substan-
tive chapters deal in detail with Whewell’s
and Mill’s philosophical projects respec-
tively. Whewell’s concern, as Snyder char-
acterizes it, was the reform of inductive phi-
losophy. As far as Whewell was concerned
as well, there was nothing abstract or dis-
connected about such an ambition. Reform-
ing inductive philosophy meant reforming
BOOK REVIEWS 411
the grounds of knowledge and that, as
Whewell saw it, was inextricably bound to
the defence of political morality. Snyder
shows how Whewell developed his induc-
tive vision across his career, drawing on
his reading of Francis Bacon, the English
hero of the inductive philosophy. Mill
would have regarded Bacon as a hero too,
though his reading of the great man’s writ-
ings was very different from that of the
Master of Trinity College. Mill, as Snyder
shows, certainly agreed with Whewell that
getting the inductive grounds of knowledge
right was a prerequisite of reform. This
after all is why he would find Whewell’s
use of philosophy in defence of orthodoxy
so objectionable.
With the essentials of Whewell’s and
Mill’s general philosophical positions care-
fully and sensitively delineated, Snyder in
the remaining three chapters gets to grips
with the controversies between the two
men. She organizes these remaining chap-
ters around the reform of science, of politics
and morality and of political economy re-
spectively and dissects the two philoso-
phers’ disagreements. Dealing with science
she discusses their competing accounts of
confirmation, with particular attention to
Whewell’s view of natural classification
and Mill’s opposition to the idea. Much of
Mill’s antipathy to Whewell’s intuitionism
rested on his view that it was a philosophy
that gave dangerous ammunition to defen-
ders of the status quo. If it could be de-
feated as a philosophy of science then its
deadly grip on other areas of cultural life
would be similarly weakened. Whewell, on
the other hand, saw it as part of his mission
to combat the utilitarianism that he re-
garded as being so corrupting of political
and religious life. Dealing with the two
combatants’ concerns for political economy,
Snyder again notes the ways in which they
both saw method as a way of making philo-
sophy matter to Victorian culture.
This is, quite unmistakably, a philoso-
pher’s book. Snyder is extremely good at
dissecting details, drawing out nuances
and clarifying the significance of particular
and often very complex philosophical posi-
tions. She certainly succeeds in demonstrat-
ing the importance of paying due attention
to the particulars of philosophical debate
as a way of making sense of the dynamics
of long running controversies such as the
one under the microscope here. She is, it
must be said, rather less successful as a his-
torian. She makes much of her intention to
supply the Mill-Whewell debate with an ap-
propriate historical context. It becomes
clear quite quickly, however, that any con-
text here is almost entirely textual. We get
very little sense of what was actually going
on as opposed to being written. That said,
though, this is an important book. It is cer-
tainly a corrective to the labelling tendency
of historians and philosophers alike, re-
minding us that if we want to make sense
of debates like these and the ways in which
they were understood both by their prota-
gonists and their audiences, we need to be
attentive to shades of grey rather than the
easy black and white.
IWAN RHYS MORUS
FRIEDRICH STEINLE, Explorative Experimen-
te. Ampe`re, Faraday und die Urspru¨nge
der Elektrodynamik. Stuttgart: Franz
Steiner Verlag, 2005. 450 pp., ISBN 3-
515-08185-2.
Friedrich Steinle’s study is remarkable
for several reasons. First of all, he offers a
valuable concept for describing experimen-
tal practice in a thorough manner. Sec-
ondly, he reconstructs source material in a
new manner and convincingly demonstrates
the strength of his approach. And finally, he
gives two case studies in local history that
discuss episodes from the early history of
electromagnetism. Although they are well-
known, Steinle presents a new and signifi-
cantly deeper interpretation, which results
from his different methodological ap-
proach, as well as from his epistemological
conception.
The first part of this book can be seen as
some sort of introduction for the two case
412 BOOK REVIEWS
studies that are discussed in great detail.
Steinle rightly argues that there is no ade-
quate history of electricity for the early
nineteenth century, so he gives a brief ac-
count of a number of central elements that,
if one is not familiar with the history of elec-
tricity, are probably helpful, even though
they appear to be insufficient to compen-
sate the desideratum.
In his first case study, Steinle analyses the
early period of Ampe` re’s researches on elec-
tromagnetism that took place immediately
after Oersted’s publication. Here, the book
offers remarkably new and convincing in-
sights: Steinle demonstrates that, despite
other historical accounts, Ampe` re’s early
experiments were not theory-laden, but
can be better described as an attempt to de-
velop a terminological as well as conceptual
understanding of the interaction of a mag-
net and a current or two currents. At the
same time, Steinle demonstrates that Am-
pe` re worked under strong time-pressure,
as he wanted to establish himself in the
newly opened field before Biot, the leading
French researcher in the field of Galvanism,
would return to Paris to work in this field.
By combining such aspects together with a
clear description of Ampe` re’s experimental
strategies and conceptual development,
Steinle provides a fascinating story on one
of the central developments in the history
of nineteenth-century research in the field
of electromagnetism.
The second case study focuses on Mi-
chael Faraday’s early works in electromag-
netism, which took place during the year
1821 and resulted in Faraday’s contribution
to the demonstration of electromagnetic ro-
tation. Again, Steinle offers a complex de-
scription of the emergence of a new effect
that could not result merely from estab-
lished knowledge. However, unlike the case
of Ampe` re, the sources are much richer.
This might be one of the reasons why sev-
eral historians have already discussed this
particular episode in Faraday’s work. In this
respect, it is even more remarkable that
Steinle is able to come to a completely no-
vel, yet convincing interpretation of Fara-
day’s conceptual development. In doing
so, Steinle strongly criticizes other descrip-
tions, namely the studies of David Gooding
(p. 250 ff.) and Iwan Morus (p. 269).
Like the case study on Ampe` re, Steinle
describes Faraday’s development of a con-
ceptual understanding that is based on
experimental research. However, unlike
Ampe` re, Faraday used an experimental
strategy that Steinle calls ‘‘exploratory ex-
perimentation’’ for a significantly longer
period of time. This strategy can be speci-
fied as being (seemingly) theory-free, which
it is not: simplified, it is characterized by a
systematic variation of parameters in order
to overcome a situation in which a research-
er is not able to include a phenomenon or
an effect into his or her conceptual under-
standing. This epistemological conception
is crucial for the case studies developed by
Steinle, as it enables him to focus on the
source material in a different manner. At
the same time, the case studies make a
strong argument for the plausibility of the
introduction of the discrimination between
exploratory experimentation and theory-la-
den experimentation.
To sum up, Steinle’s study can be recom-
mended as a remarkable example of how to
combine explicitly historical case studies
with epistemological concepts in a manner
that both parts benefit from the other.
Moreover, the book is written very clearly
and intelligibly. Therefore, readers who
have no expertise in the history of electro-
dynamics will benefit from this study. If
something is to be criticized, it is the num-
ber of typos both in the text and in the bib-
liography, which go beyond the usual rate.
PETER HEERING
BOOK REVIEWS 413
General
GUY BOISTEL (ed.), Observatoires et patri-
moine astronomique franc¸ais. Lyon: ENS,
2005. 220 pp., ISBN 2-84788-083-6.
Il volume edito da Boistel offre un’ampia
panoramica sul patrimonio storico astrono-
mico francese e costituisce un significativo
contributo alla storia dell’astronomia e degli
osservatori francesi. Frutto di un convegno
tenutosi a Nantes nel 2001 sulla tematica
che da` titolo al volume, il libro raccoglie
una serie di interventi che bene illustrano
il ruolo dell’astronomia e degli osservatori
francesi nel contesto socio-politico locale
dal XVII al XX secolo.
Emerge con chiarezza l’importante ruolo
politico giocato dal Bureau des Longitudes
nello sviluppo dell’astronomia francese, le
sue relazioni – dirette o indirette – con
l’Observatoire de Paris e con gli altri osser-
vatori minori fino alla meta` del XIX secolo,
un tema trattato direttamente da S. De´ bar-
bat, ma che si ritrova anche nei contributi di
J. Lamy sull’osservatorio di Tolosa e di J.
Caplan su quello di Marsiglia. E
`
altresı` evi-
dente e ben documentato il tentativo di
decentralizzazione dell’astronomia francese
con la creazione degli osservatori di provin-
cia sul finire del XIX secolo, descritto da L.
Maison per l’osservatorio di Bordeaux, sul
quale peraltro rimangono ancora aperti di-
versi interrogativi. Esauriente il contributo
sull’astronomia marsigliese, utile l’appro-
fondimento biografico su Esprit Penzenas,
a cura dello stesso Boistel, che va a colmare
una lacuna su un personaggio poco cono-
sciuto dalla storiografia corrente. Altrettan-
to esauriente il contributo di P. Veron sulla
creazione dell’Observatoire de Haute-Pro-
vence e quello di O. Sauzereau sull’astrono-
mia a Nantes; ben descritta da J.-M. Faidit
la rivalita` tra Tolosa e Montpellier, mentre
meritava forse di essere trattato piu` ampia-
mente l’osservatorio di Nizza da F. le Guet
Tully, che si sofferma piuttosto sulla riorga-
nizzazione del Bureau des Longitudes nel
1854. Di particolare interesse, infine, i con-
tributi sulla divulgazione astronomica in
Francia di C. le Lay e sull’Association Fran-
c¸ aise pour l’Avancement des Sciences di D.
Fauque, che documentano la leadership
francese nella diffusione della cultura astro-
nomica nell’Ottocento. Mancano, nel volu-
me, contributi sugli osservatori di Besanc¸ on
e di Lione, istituiti nell’ambito dello stesso
processo che porto` alla fondazione dell’Os-
servatorio di Bordeaux, i quali, finalizzati ri-
spettivamente piu` alla cronometria e alla
meteorologia, forse meritavano qualche
approfondimento che testimoniasse il rap-
porto tra l’astronomia e le altre scienze in
Francia; stupisce infine, l’assenza di un
contributo sull’osservatorio di Meudon, pri-
mo osservatorio astrofisico francese e culla
della fisica solare e su quanto rimane del
suo patrimonio storico strumentale.
Per il resto, l’idea di raccogliere in un agi-
le volumetto una serie di contributi sul pa-
trimonio astronomico nazionale e` senz’altro
stimolante e sarebbe auspicabile che un tale
esempio venga ben presto seguito anche da
altri, non ultimo dall’Italia che, per numero
di osservatori istituzionali e per ricchezza
del patrimonio strumentale, e` in primo pia-
no nel panorama internazionale.
ILEANA CHINNICI
GEOFFREY CANTOR, Quakers, Jews and
science: religious responses to modernity
and the sciences in Britain, 1650-1900.
New York: Oxford University Press,
2005. XI+420 pp., ISBN 0199276684.
The story that historians tell about the re-
lationship between science and religion has
become ever more complex in the last two
decades. By deciding to focus on two com-
munities whose views of science have been
scarcely noted Cantor shows that there are
still many more perspectives to bring into
the equation. The focus on Quakers and
414 BOOK REVIEWS
Jews allows a series of new questions to be
raised. How can a religious community re-
define itself and its place in society by enga-
ging science? How might members of a re-
ligious community study science and forge
careers in science in order to secure respect
for their cultural traditions? Can science
provide a common language across the
boundaries of religious communities?
Having given the reader an account of
the history of the Quaker and Jewish com-
munities in Britain and their search for re-
spectability, Cantor turns to several con-
texts where Quakers and Jews engaged
science: schools, universities and scientific
societies. We hear how science was taught
in Quaker schools by the middle of the
nineteenth century. John Ford, who taught
at a school in Bootham, encouraged his stu-
dents to found their own journal, The Nat-
uralist in 1833. Moving on to higher educa-
tion, Cantor documents Quaker preference
for medical education in Edinburgh, where
such education was under secular control.
Cantor takes us to universities, such as Uni-
versity College London, where Augustus de
Morgan established a circle of Jewish math-
ematicians, and to Cambridge and Oxford,
where some Quakers and Jews excelled
early despite religious tests. Cantor suggests
that education allowed the testing of belief,
and made it possible to engage with new
ideas. But education was a dangerous busi-
ness: it brought both Quakers and Jews into
contact with Anglicanism and allowed a
slow drift away from tradition.
Given both Quakers and Jews’ caution
about Christian authority, scientific socie-
ties were a particularly conducive venue to
engage with science. Within the Royal So-
ciety, patronage networks amongst both
Quakers and Jews saw them support the
election of other members from their com-
munities in the first half of the nineteenth
century. Meanwhile, the British Society for
the Advancement of Science’s annual meet-
ings were especially interesting for Quakers.
Cantor describes the experience of Caroline
Fox, the eighteen year old daughter of Ro-
bert Were Fox, a Quaker scientist from
Cornwall. In her diary Caroline wrote of
her delight at talking with Charles Wheat-
stone about his telegraphic researches. But
some scientific causes were particularly im-
portant for Quakers: there is a wonderful
discussion of Quaker prominence in the
Aborigines’ Protection Society and the Eth-
nological Society, which were closely allied
with Quaker ethics. Cantor’s study of scien-
tific institutes comes to a climax with an ac-
count of how Quakers and Jews embraced
the Great Exhibition.
The subtlety of Cantor’s account of Qua-
ker and Jewish science is highlighted in his
survey of different types of scientific prac-
tice within these communities in the next
chapter. Science done by wealthy amateurs,
traders, travellers, engineers and entrepre-
neurs, educators and social statisticians
come into view. The general argument is
that there was a diversity of ways in which
science and religion interacted within these
communities. A fascinating set of character
portraits also appear. The chapter ends with
an intriguing account of how scientific sta-
tistics could be used to interrogate the
makeup of these two communities. For
instance the Jew, Joseph Jacobs, used
statistics to debunk long-standing ideas that
Jews were particularly prone to infectious
disease, but in doing so he ended up dissol-
ving the notion of a distinct Jewish race.
Science could then be a weapon in reinvent-
ing a religious tradition, but it came with
the danger of loosening the cohesiveness
of the community.
The last sections of the book provide a
symmetric account of Quaker and Jewish
attitudes to science and Darwin’s theory in
particular. Cantor shows how Quakers’
commitment to the Inner Light of revela-
tion within each individual, meant that they
were particularly attracted to the observa-
tional sciences and shied away from mathe-
matics and astronomy. The arrival of
Darwinism caused a wedge between two
different Quaker traditions: whilst evangeli-
cal Quakers largely shunned Darwin’s theo-
ry, moderate Quakers espoused evolution
as a progressive force. So science did not
only fit alongside religious beliefs, it allowed
the reconceptualisation of what it meant to
BOOK REVIEWS 415
be a Quaker. Unlike Quakers, Jews were
avid theorizers and sought to embrace
scientific theories, such as evolution, as a
means of setting themselves apart from
Christians who felt threatened by modern
science. Here too science was a means of
defining the community.
Cantor’s book is a masterly piece of re-
search. There can be no doubt that it will
stand the test of time as a definitive account
of Quaker and Jewish views of science.
There is a dizzying variety of sources, and
particularly strong use of the periodical
press. This counts as an important interven-
tion in the study of science and religion.
SUJIT SIVASUNDARAM
PETER DEAR, The Intelligibility of Nature.
How Science Makes Sense of the World.
Chicago and London: The University of
Chicago Press, 2006. XII+242 pp., ISBN
0-226-13948-4.
Although the title might suggest a work
in the philosophy of science, this is in fact
a brief history of science, from the mechan-
ical philosophy to quantum mechanics in
six chapters. It is, however, a history with
an argument. Dear presents his history of
the development of modern science as the
result of the interactions of two enterprises:
one, which he sees as essentially continuous
with ancient and medieval endeavours, is
the attempt to understand the world, which
he usually designates as ‘‘natural philoso-
phy’’; and the other, is the attempt to
‘‘know how nature works’’, often with a
view to exploiting its actions in a practical
way, which he refers to as ‘‘instrumental-
ity’’. ‘‘The practical efficacy of scientific the-
ories, which can be called their ‘‘instrumen-
tality’’, Dear writes, ‘‘is a component of
science distinguishable from its natural phi-
losophy’’ (p. 5). This theme recurs through-
out the book and enables Dear to provide
many fascinating and stimulating insights.
It is especially interesting to see how the
practical considerations of the instrumental
approach increasingly affect what can
meaningfully be said in natural philosophy.
Niels Bohr’s attempts to make sense of
wave-particle duality by insisting that the
role of the observer and any attempts to
precisely determine what was going on in
a physical system must be seen as part of
that same physical system, is presented by
Dear as an attempt by Bohr to do away with
the distinction between instrumentality and
natural philosophy and to make the instru-
mental approach ‘‘a new kind of natural
philosophy’’. Although, as he points out,
the old distinctions still lingered: ‘‘for
Schrodinger, as for Einstein, that just didn’t
make sense’’ (p. 170).
The ever-present theme of Dear’s argu-
ment shapes the nature of the history he
provides, not only at the level of the details
he discusses, but also in the organisation of
the book into chapters dealing with a major
aspect of the historical development of the
scientific enterprise. It also leads him to em-
phasise intelligibility as a major concern of
practitioners of the sciences, although it is
by no means clear why this follows from
his main theme. The result, anyway, is to
add freshness to what is essentially a famil-
iar set of stories. The opening chapter on
‘‘The Mechanical Universe from Galileo to
Newton’’ shows how scholastic natural phi-
losophy came to be seen as essentially unin-
telligible as a more instrumental approach
to the natural world began to take hold,
and the world came to be seen as operating
like a machine. Pursuing the theme of mak-
ing sense of the world, Dear moves on to
discuss attempts to classify the various phe-
nomena of the world, from chemical inter-
actions, to plants and animals, and heavenly
objects, and shows how these efforts dif-
fered according to whether natural philoso-
phy or instrumentality predominated. The
following chapter, on the Chemical Revolu-
tion, sees the empiricist emphasis of Lavoi-
sier and the attendant refusal to consider
theoretical entities like atoms as a version
of instrumentality, and Dalton’s reinterpre-
tation of Lavoisierian elements in terms of
different kinds of atoms as a more natural
philosophical endeavour. A chapter on Dar-
416 BOOK REVIEWS
win comes next and again weaves a tale
showing how classification and attempts to
develop a natural philosophy of the living
world featured in the development of the
Origin of Species. Chapter five shows how
the concept of what eventually became
known as the electromagnetic aether was
developed in order to make sense of newly
discovered phenomena, while Victorian
physicists and engineers continued to ex-
ploit the pragmatic usefulness of those same
phenomena. This brings us finally to the at-
tempt to understand the phenomena of heat
and light, and various presumed atomic
phenomena, in terms of quanta of energy.
The result allows Dear in the conclusion
to claim to have shown that ‘‘the history of
science is in large part the story of how
[natural philosophy and instrumentality],
while never quite acknowledging the fact,
have interwoven and accommodated them-
selves to each other’’ (p. 191). It is impor-
tant to note, however, that it is only one
way of reading the history of science among
many other equally possible and equally
plausible ways of understanding it. This is
most evident from Dear’s emphasis upon
intelligibility. After all, in order to tell his
story Dear has had to play down the unin-
telligibility of some of the ways of thinking
his story required him to tell (and I can
think of other examples of such thinking
that make no appearance in his necessarily
selective version of history). Dear claims
Huygens’s account of gravity as evidence
that intelligibility was paramount, but the
notion of ‘‘countless tiny particles circling
around the earth in all possible planes’’
(p. 25, my emphasis) was unintelligible in
Cartesian terms, and Huygens made no at-
tempt to develop an alternative natural phi-
losophy in which they could conceivably
have been intelligible. Similarly, the nine-
teenth-century concept of aether offered in-
telligibility only to the relevant community
of physicists and their concerns, while mak-
ing nonsense of other more widely accepted
ways of understanding the world system. It
would be easy to recast Dear’s account of
Darwin’s theory of natural selection to show
that, because it was incompatible with inde-
pendent and accepted conclusions in geol-
ogy and thermodynamics, it was largely
unintelligible to his contemporaries. In
another version of the history of science,
therefore, commitment to theory could be
shown to displace intelligibility.
JOHN HENRY
MARIACARLA GADEBUSCH BONDIO (ed.),
Blood in History and Blood Histories. Fi-
renze: Sismel - Edizioni del Galluzzo,
2005. 385 pp., ISBN 88-8450-162-8.
Blood has received a good deal of atten-
tion from medical historians in recent years
(see e.g. the 2005 monographic issue of
Medicina nei secoli, ed. by V. Gazzaniga).
One would have thought that the history
of the foremost bodily fluid hardly needed
re-examination. The groundbreaking work
on blood by Pietro Camporesi (1993) pro-
vided a fascinating, albeit historically vague,
analysis of its anthropological meaning in
European culture. However, the symbolic,
religious, and cultural implications of the
scientific and medical discoveries and the-
ories on blood, in fact still needed assess-
ment.
The very notion of ‘‘blood’’ is deceitfully
simple, and it is only apparently easily
stretched over centuries of medical knowl-
edge and everyday life and culture – Gade-
busch rather diminutively stresses its ‘‘ver-
satility’’ (p. 9). In fact, ‘‘blood’’ offers a
good example of the shortcomings of a his-
tory of ideas based on nominalism. Over the
centuries, the fluid carried with it so many
different properties and meanings that it
seems almost naı ¨f to address it as being a
simple object. This is true even if one ob-
serves it over a brief span of time: medieval
‘‘blood’’ – the core of this book – is itself a
complex object.
The volume originated from a sympo-
sium with the same title. It was inspired
by the Humanistic discussion over a passage
in Galen concerning bodily fat and its rela-
tion to blood. As Gadebusch underlines,
BOOK REVIEWS 417
the original debate had thus centred on the
values and assumptions implicit in humoral
pathology. Apart from a detailed introduc-
tion by Alberto Jori on blood and life in
Aristotle, the contributions can be broadly
arranged around three periods or ‘‘axes’’ –
the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Bar-
oque, the 20
th
century.
Contributions on the Middle Ages focus
on specific and rather neglected aspects of
medical practice, such as haematoscopy
and the therapeutic use of blood, examined
in two articles by Ortrun Riha and Hartmut
Bettin. An article by Thomas Ricklin on
Dante’s Commedia shows the extent to
which conceptions on blood and humours
permeated philosophy and literature. Gade-
busch provides a thoughtful introduction to
early modern haematopoiesis theories, by
examining authors such as Vesalius, Andre´
Laurens, Jean Fernel. Roberto Poma exam-
ines the work on blood of the French Para-
celsian Nicolas De Locques.
Three articles refer to an altogether dif-
ferent aspect of blood history – devotional
and religious practices. Isabella van Elferen
deals with blood in German Baroque litera-
ture and music, focusing on Bach’s Pas-
sions. Thomas Schauerte describes the ico-
nographic programme of the church of St.
Georg in Walldu¨ rn, where a miracle of
the Holy Blood took place, and a pilgrim-
age was established, beginning in the 14
th
century. Dominique de Courcelles writes
on the mystical meditation over the associa-
tion between feminine and holy blood at
Port-Royal monastery, especially focusing
on the works by Marie-Ange´ lique Arnauld.
A paper by Anja Lauper on the work on
vampires (1784) by the Austrian physician
Georg Tallar provides an insight in yet an-
other story, the one concerning the blood
of hybrid or abnormal beings.
Women may themselves be considered as
belonging to the latter category, as shown
by the paper by Myriam Spo¨ rri centring
on ‘‘menotoxin’’ – a powerful poison sup-
posedly present in menstrual blood, a pseu-
do-scientific notion constructed in the
Twenties to explain century-old supersti-
tions on its destructive effects. Karin Stu-
kenbrock deals with the twentieth-century
history of a typically feminine blood disease,
chlorosis (see the book by Helen King on
the subject, published in 2004), and with
the paradox of a nosological entity still in
use by practicing physicians and other
non-medical professionals, while it had al-
ready been abandoned by scientific re-
search.
In the years following Landsteiner’s dis-
covery of blood groups, the ‘‘rediscovery’’
of blood transfusions by practicing sur-
geons and physicians, Stefan Schulz convin-
cingly argues, was fuelled by research in the
fields of organ transplantation and by the
development of parabiosis techniques. Ger-
hard Baader deals with the blood group re-
search in the Nazi period, showing that ra-
cist implications were almost totally absent
from serological research previous to
1933. Alessandro Barberi writes on the no-
tion of Blut und Boden as related to the Ju-
denfrage in Germany before WW II. The
three contributions are in some way antici-
pated by Gil Anidjar’s analysis of the early
modern notion of limpieza de sangre as the
construction of a political theology enabling
the Spanish state to define the characteristic
of its body politic.
On the whole, the volume provides a use-
ful reading, though it contains contribu-
tions of an uneven character and based on
approaches ranging from classical scholar-
ship to musicology to Derridean literary
and linguistic criticism. By assembling con-
tributions by Italian, German, French and
Anglo-Saxon scholars, it also provides an
insight into ‘‘national styles’’ in intellectual
and cultural histories of medicine. Despite
the statement about the decision ‘‘to re-
nounce every chronological or thematic spe-
cification’’ (p. 9), its strength lies in the ana-
lysis of how ‘‘blood’’ has become from time
to time charged with tensions concerning
gender, race, and religious, even mystical,
issues. The surprising longue dure´e of many
of these aspects emerge from contributions
apparently unrelated or addressing different
problems and periods.
One consequence of this focus on extra-
medical meanings – partly shared by the
418 BOOK REVIEWS
Italian volume mentioned above – is the
scant or nil discussion of what would ap-
pear to be the ‘‘turning point’’ in blood his-
tory in Western medicine. William Harvey’s
discovery of circulation still represents the
official foundation act of modern physiol-
ogy. It may well be that the discussion over
this part of blood history has been consid-
ered as fixed in the classical contributions
by Pagel, Bylebyl, Frank and others. None-
theless, an appraisal of what is still to be
known about the discovery of circulation
and its scientific implications would have
been a welcome addition, at least for the
early modern historian.
MARIA CONFORTI
ARTHUR GREENBERG, From Alchemy to Che-
mistry in Picture and Story. New York:
John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2007, XXIII+
637 pp., ISBN: 0-471-75154-5.
Dopo la pubblicazione di A Chemical Hi-
story Tour (2000) e The Art of Chemistry
(2003), Artur Greenberg, torna nuovamen-
te ad occuparsi di storia della chimica pro-
ponendo un’altra opera di carattere gene-
rale nella quale, attraverso una cospicua
selezione di immagini (354) e di casi signifi-
cativi, vengono ripercorse le tappe fonda-
mentali che hanno caratterizzato lo sviluppo
di questa disciplina a partire dall’epoca ri-
nascimentale.
Nel libro, organizzato in dieci sezioni,
l’autore miscela abilmente immagini e de-
scrizioni verbali sviluppando una trama di
piacevole lettura nella quale vengono esem-
plificati in maniera chiara ed efficace anche
gli argomenti piu` complessi della chimica
ottocentesca e novecentesca.
I primi tre capitoli ricostruiscono la com-
plessita` del panorama tecnico-scientifico del
XVI e XVII secolo relativo alle problemati-
che sulle trasformazioni delle sostanze natu-
rali. L’autore analizza in maniera sintetica
una serie di opere che mettono in evidenza
come la chimica di questo periodo costitui-
sca un terreno complesso nel quale conver-
gono, in maniera talvolta indipendente e
non articolata, discipline come l’alchimia,
la filosofia naturale, la medicina e arti prati-
che come la distillazione e la metallurgia.
Nel quarto capitolo l’autore affronta il te-
ma della nascita della chimica come discipli-
na autonoma ripercorrendo il dibattito e le
vicende sperimentali che portarono alla de-
finizione di concetti come quelli di atomo,
elemento, elisir, effluvio, flogisto e affinita`
che ne hanno caratterizzato la storia tra il
XVI e il XVIII secolo. L’autore, ripropo-
nendo i frontespizi e le tavole piu` significa-
tive delle opere di scienziati come Van Hel-
mont, Libavius, Boyle, Glauber, Kunckel,
Becher e Geoffroy, mette in evidenza le dif-
ficolta` incontrate da questa disciplina nel
superamento delle concezioni irrazionali
sulla struttura della materia che, come nel
caso del concetto di trasmutazione e di flo-
gisto, rimasero al centro del dibattito scien-
tifico-filosofico fino alla fine del Settecento.
Il quinto capitolo e` dedicato alla rivolu-
zione chimica che Greenberg periodizza
tra il 1727, quando Stephan Hales escogito`
il modo per raccogliere i gas prodotti nelle
reazioni chimiche, e la teoria dell’atomo di
John Dalton agli inizi dell’Ottocento. In
questa sezione viene dato ampio spazio alla
chimica pneumatica proponendo gli esperi-
menti degli scienziati che durante il XVIII
secolo mostrarono la natura composita del-
l’aria, illustrati, anche in questo caso, con le
tavole originali delle loro opere.
La sesta sezione intitolata significativa-
mente ‘‘A young democracy and a new che-
mistry’’, racconta la diffusione e lo sviluppo
della chimica nell’America pre e post-colo-
niale. L’autore mette giustamente in eviden-
za l’importanza del ruolo svolto dagli scien-
ziati britannici Joseph Black e Joseph
Priestley e il francese Antoine Laurent La-
voisier che, sia attraverso contatti diretti
che tramite le loro opere, influenzarono la
prima generazione di studiosi di chimica
in America, come Benjamin Franklin e Ben-
jamin Rush. In seguito si approfondisce l’o-
pera di alcuni personaggi importanti come
John Penington, che nel 1789 pubblico` il
primo libro di chimica realizzato negli Stati
Uniti (Chemical and Economical Essays) e
BOOK REVIEWS 419
fondo` a Philadelphia la prima societa` chimi-
ca d’America, e Amos Eaton, un insegnante
itinerante di chimica, autore del libro Che-
mical Instructor (1826), che impartiva lezio-
ni nei villaggi e nelle citta` del New England
e nello stato di New York.
Il settimo capitolo e` dedicato al XIX se-
colo e ripercorre le tappe dalle quali sono
nati alcuni dei settori specialistici che anco-
ra oggi caratterizzano la disciplina (organi-
ca, inorganica, fisica e analitica). L’autore ri-
costruisce il dibattito scientifico nel quale
furono definiti concetti fondamentali come
quelli di peso atomico e di valenza, fu con-
cepita la struttura tridimensionale delle mo-
lecole e nel quale, Mendeleev, formulo` la
legge periodica degli elementi. Nel capitolo
viene dato il giusto risalto al primo conve-
gno internazionale di chimica tenutosi a
Karlsrue nel 1860 dopo il quale, grazie in
primo luogo al lavoro presentato da Stani-
slao Cannizzaro, si delinearono le condizio-
ni per la corretta ricezione della teoria di
Avogadro e fu possibile dare una spiegazio-
ne piu` precisa dei concetti di atomo e di
molecola, facendo della chimica una scienza
unitaria che trovava nella struttura della ma-
teria il suo principale oggetto di studio.
Nell’ottavo capitolo l’autore affronta il
tema dell’insegnamento della chimica che,
grazie alla pubblicazione di opere a caratte-
re introduttivo come la Conversations on
Chemistry di Jane Marcet (Londra, 1806),
Chemical no Mistery di Jonh Scoffern
(Londra, 1839), Chemistianity (Birkenhead,
1873) di John Carrington Sellars, un poema
che illustrava le principali caratteristiche de-
gli elementi in versi, e Chemistry of Cooking
and Cleaning (Boston, 1882) di Ellen H. Ri-
chards, favorı ` l’affermazione e lo sviluppo
della disciplina su larga scala.
Il nono capitolo e` essenzialmente dedica-
to agli sviluppi della chimica durante il XX
secolo e pone particolare attenzione agli
studi sulla struttura sub-atomica della mate-
ria e la stereochimica. L’autore ricostruisce
in maniera sintetica il dibattito sulla struttu-
ra dell’atomo e gli esperimenti che portaro-
no alla scoperta dell’elettrone, del protone e
del neutrone. Il percorso cronologico trac-
ciato da questo capitolo termina affrontan-
do temi ancora di forte attualita` come la
scoperta del DNA e le nanotecnologie.
L’ultimo capitolo e` dedicato a personag-
gi, teorie e idee stravaganti che rientrano in
maniera marginale nella storia della chimica
come ad esempio l’opera di Annie Besant e
Charles W. Leadbeater Occult Chemistry
(1908), nella quale gli autori rappresentano
graficamente gli orbitali di alcuni atomi
concepiti attraverso esperienze di chiaro-
veggenza, e altre cose curiose come le carto-
line dedicate alla storia della chimica incluse
nei pacchetti di sigarette La Cigarette Orien-
tal de Belgique o nelle confezioni di estratti
di carne Liebig.
Nel suo complesso il libro di Greenberg,
che fornisce anche la bibliografia essenziale
e un indice dei nomi per agevolare la con-
sultazione, costituisce uno strumento effica-
ce per studenti e appassionati di chimica in-
teressati a scoprire le origini della disciplina
e a contestualizzare storicamente le teorie e i
personaggi che oggi compaiono nei manuali
di chimica, liceali e universitari.
ANDREA BERNARDONI
TULLIO GREGORY, Origini della terminolo-
gia filosofica moderna. Linee di ricerca. Fi-
renze: Olschki, 2006. X+118 pp., ISBN
88-222-5566-6.
Questo volume inaugura una nuova e piu`
agile sezione della collana del Lessico Intel-
lettuale Europeo, offrendo al tempo stesso
un’autorevole illustrazione di alcuni interes-
si e prospettive di ricerca del vivace istituto
del CNR. I tre saggi qui raccolti risalgono al
periodo compreso tra il 1991 ed il 2004 e
sono accomunati dall’insistente rivendica-
zione dell’importanza per la storia delle idee
degli studi sulla lingua e sul lessico, con le
loro evoluzioni e ibridazioni. Nell’insieme
essi forniscono una panoramica sintetica e
penetrante, fondata su una ricca documen-
tazione, della formazione della terminologia
filosofica medievale e moderna, contribuen-
do a delineare alcuni possibili sviluppi della
ricerca. Nell’impossibilita` di dar conto piu`
420 BOOK REVIEWS
ampiamente di un’analisi complessa e raffi-
nata, mi limitero` a segnalare alcuni spunti di
particolare rilievo.
Il volume si apre col richiamo al pro-
gramma vagheggiato da Boezio per trasferi-
re in latino (transferre in latinam formam)
l’immenso patrimonio della cultura greca:
programma che di fatto richiedera` piu` di
un millennio e che puo` riassumere il profilo
complessivo dell’intera civilta` medievale.
Ben lungi dal configurarsi come mero pro-
blema tecnico, la ricezione o il trasferimento
delle opere classiche (e non solo) nella lin-
gua e nella cultura della latinita` investe e
trasforma l’identita` complessiva della civilta`
europea, rendendo necessaria una giustifi-
cazione storico-teologica dell’uso cristiano
della cultura pagana (Agostino ne fornira`
il paradigma con l’interpretazione tipologi-
ca del furto del vasellame prezioso degli
Egizi compiuto dagli Israeliti in fuga). Ma
l’attenzione di Gregory si appunta su alcuni
momenti cruciali di questa straordinaria vi-
cenda, nei quali la traduzione di certi testi
determino` ‘‘svolte significative, a volte radi-
cali, nel modo di concepire e rappresentare
le strutture dell’universo fisico e del cosmo
intellettuale’’ (p. 8). L’autore si sofferma
ad esempio sulle trasformazioni delle imma-
gini della natura legate alla lettura o alla ri-
scoperta di alcuni testi classici: i passaggi
piu` importanti sono quello del secolo XII,
con l’imporsi del Timeo platonico come de-
cisivo riferimento per una nuova cosmolo-
gia razionale, e quello del secolo seguente,
con la riscoperta della tradizione aristotelica
greca e araba e la conseguente riacquisizio-
ne di un intero e coerente sistema del mon-
do fisico.
Il contributo dei traduttori appare in-
somma determinante per il mutamento de-
gli orizzonti culturali, al di la` di un pregiu-
dizio storiografico duro a morire. Tale
contributo non si limita a rendere disponi-
bili testi o far conoscere antiche dottrine,
ma consente la formazione di un nuovo lin-
guaggio, attraverso adattamenti, calchi se-
mantici, traslitterazioni, neologismi in cui
si esprime un complesso lavoro di ripresa,
distorsione e riappropriazione delle culture
classiche e di altre piu` o meno recenti. Il re-
cupero del lessico antico non avviene certo
in maniera passiva o sulla base di un mero
interesse filologico o stilistico: l’autore se-
gnala anzi l’importanza della difesa dei bar-
barismi condotta da Alonso Garcia o Gio-
vanni Pico contro il purismo di Leonardo
Bruni o Ermolao Barbaro. Neologismi e
barbarismi sono la strada obbligata per l’af-
fermarsi di un lessico piu` moderno, come
dimostra l’imporsi duraturo di una serie di
termini (aristocratia, oligarchia, democratia)
che facevano inorridire il Bruni (che prefe-
riva espressioni classiche come optimorum
gubernatio, pauciorum potentia, populare
statum). Va sottolineata, da questo punto
di vista, l’opportuna insistenza dell’autore
sulla duttilita` e la creativita` del latino scola-
stico, che lungi dal rappresentare una lingua
statica e inerte ‘‘sara` ancora per secoli il vei-
colo della scrittura e della comunicazione
scientifica, manifestando la sua vitalita` nel-
l’accogliere e descrivere realta` nuove che
l’esperienza e il pensiero andavano deli-
neando’’ (p. 51).
Il latino costituira` fino alla fine del Sette-
cento uno strumento essenziale di comunica-
zione internazionale e un riferimento decisi-
vo per il formarsi di nuovi lessemi e nuovi
concetti (si pensi a termini come antropolo-
gia, aesthetica, deista, empiricus, microsco-
pius, pantheismus, psycologia, telescopium,
theodicea), restando a lungo una lingua viva
della ricerca filosofica e scientifica. A buon
diritto, dunque, Gregory respinge le sempli-
cistiche affermazioni di L. Febvre, che consi-
derava il latino cinque-seicentesco incapace
di esprimere pensieri moderni. Al contrario,
proprio lo studio sistematico del latino mo-
derno – nelle sue dinamiche relazioni con
le lingue nazionali – viene indicato dall’auto-
re come un compito ormai ineludibile, anche
per seguire le trasformazioni dei concetti an-
tichi nei nuovi contesti culturali che si vanno
affermando (si pensi all’evoluzione del signi-
ficato di trascendentale dalla Scolastica a
Kant). E
`
questa, del resto, la linea su cui sta
operando il Lessico Intellettuale Europeo,
in particolare con la pubblicazione del Lessi-
co filosofico dei secoli XVII e XVIII. Sezione
latina, a cura di M. Fattori, impresa di gran-
BOOK REVIEWS 421
de portata ed utilita` di cui sia lecito qui auspi-
care lo sviluppo ed il completamento.
STEFANO BROGI
STEFFAN MU
¨
LLER-WILLE, HANS-JO
¨
RG
RHEINBERGER (eds.), Heredity Produced.
At the Crossroads of Biology, Politics,
and Culture, 1500-1870. Cambridge
(MA): The MIT Press, 2007. X+496
pp., ISBN 9-780262-134767.
It is unfortunately impossible to give an
adequate report of the wealth of ap-
proaches, insights, and ideas contained in
this massive volume that assembles the re-
sults of a long-term research project carried
out since 2001 at the Max-Planck-Institut
fu¨ r Wissenschaftsgeschichte along two axes
– longue dure´e and transdisciplinary charac-
ter – under the heading of a Cultural His-
tory of Heredity. So far, nineteen authors
have contributed to its realisation, including
the two editors whose introduction is an ef-
fective guide to the reader, who might per-
haps feel puzzled at first sight by such a
variety of viewpoints and materials. How-
ever, a single topic of paramount impor-
tance ties and keeps them together, and this
is not just something claimed by the editors.
Heredity, a cardinal notion of twentieth-
century biology, actually represents the
great and protean subject of all the five sec-
tions of the book, respectively dedicated to
law, medicine, natural history, theories of
generation and evolution, anthropology,
with a short epilogue on poetics. But this
is only the first part in a planned series of
volumes that, starting from the early mod-
ern period, will reach the present.
The central historiographic problem that
inspired the MPI collective project is ex-
pressed by Mu¨ ller-Wille and Rheinberger
as follows: ‘‘How is it that the phenomenon
of hereditary transmission, which, from a
contemporary perspective, seems so impor-
tant and so tangible in its effects, was sub-
jected to systematic conceptualisation so
late?’’ (p. 16). As a matter of fact, until
the mid-eighteenth century the concept of
heredity was generally absent from dis-
courses about living beings, and it seems
nowadays quite strange that the makeup
of individual organisms was not always of
central concern. So the general theme of
the book is to explore the various historical
developments and cultural fields that in
many ways helped in forming the ‘‘episte-
mic space’’ of heredity, which is much more
than and very different from what finally
happened to become ‘‘genetics’’ as a scien-
tific discipline. In other words, the reader is
invited to look at ‘‘a broader knowledge re-
gime, in which a naturalistic concept of her-
edity gradually took shape and developed to
the extent that it today affects all domains
of society’’ (p. 13). While Franc¸ ois Jacob,
in his well known La logique du vivant.
Une histoire de l’he´re´dite´ (1970), described
a succession of ‘‘epistemes’’ separated by
sharp breaks, here the authors aim at draw-
ing an overall picture of long-term and un-
broken developments. Their beginning
coincides with the emergence of racial
classifications in early sixteenth-century
Spain and Portugal and the end of the story
with the appearance of general biological
theories of heredity in the second third of
the nineteenth century.
A curious asymmetry has to be noted:
while the biological notion of heredity ap-
pears to be a late-comer, the phenomenon
of inheritance and the regulations about
the passing on of properties and positions
engaged the political and legal debate much
earlier. That explains why the first section
of the book is about Heredity in the Legal
Context, with three contributions by David
Warren Sabean, Silvia De Renzi, and Ulrike
Vedder. After law, the second voice speak-
ing is medicine, through the texts written by
Carlos Lo´ pez-Beltra´ n, Phillip K. Wilson,
and Laure Caltron. Physicians discussed
hereditary or heritable diseases since the
eighteenth century, and the role played by
the hospital for the constitution of the dis-
course of heredity is evident. The third sec-
tion of the book has to do with Natural His-
tory, Breeding, and Hybridization, including
articles by Staffan Mu¨ ller-Wille, Marc J.
422 BOOK REVIEWS
Ratcliff, Roger J. Wood. In botanical gar-
dens and menageries, originally instituted
for the descriptive purposes of natural his-
tory and amassing living specimens from
all over the world under a code of more
or less controlled conditions, heredity was
approached experimentally, so that Men-
del’s achievements represent only the final
step of this research tradition. Theories
of Generation and Evolution dominate
the fourth section (Mary Terrall, Peter
McLaughlin, Franc¸ ois Duchesnau, Ohad
S. Parnes), involving debates about prefor-
mation and epigenesis, activity or passivity
of matter, the responsibility of the two sexes
in the generation of offspring. The fifth sec-
tion focuses on Anthropology (Renato G.
Mazzolini, Paul White, Nicolas Pethes, Ste-
fan Willer), a notoriously booming field in
the nineteenth century, that opened access
to a ‘‘natural history of man’’, although
not easily allowing practices of direct ex-
periment. At the centre was the obsessive
and controversial idea of race, converted
into a biopolitical notion, but no less impor-
tant seems to be the Galtonian dichotomy
nature/nurture, that has been troubling
Western culture for a long time and is still
today a tormenting issue. Poetics too, ac-
cording to the epilogue by Helmut Mu¨ l-
ler-Sievers, since the last quarter of the
eighteenth century confronted the question
of the transmission of literary genres, fol-
lowing the same path retraceable in scienti-
fic discourses.
CLAUDIO POGLIANO
LUC PAUWELS (ed.), Visual Cultures of Scien-
ce. Rethinking Representational Practices
in Knowledge Building and Science Com-
munication. Hanover (N.H.): Dartmouth
College Press, 2006. XX+300 pp., ISBN
1-58465-512-7.
Although six of the contributions col-
lected in this book were originally pub-
lished over a period between 1985 and
2004, everything considered it has been
worth selecting and integrating them with
an introduction and four new essays. The
idea came to Luc Pauwels, who is professor
of Communication Sciences at the Univer-
sity of Antwerp and directly maintains that
the issue of representation (especially vi-
sual) touches upon the very essence of all
scientific activity, as science itself is the re-
sult of representational practices. This is a
bold statement that thirty years ago would
have been almost impossible to make, while
it sounds nowadays rather obvious to many
historians of science. Of course something
happened in the last few decades, that gra-
dually changed the perception of their ob-
ject. To borrow from Pauwels’ introductory
words, scholars from very diverse disciplin-
ary backgrounds have taken a growing in-
terest in this complex issue, and they have
studied ‘‘a broad range of types, aspects
and uses’’ of visual representations in
science. Recently, I did not resist the temp-
tation of entitling The visual contagion in
history of science an essay review written
for an Italian historical journal («Contem-
poranea», 9, n. 4, October 2006, pp. 710-
718). As a matter of fact the mass of studies
produced has become more and more wide
and heterogeneous, now forming an im-
pressive body of knowledge scattered in
journals and volumes (especially edited
ones). Since the 1980s, conferences and
workshops have often been dedicated to
the topic. On the one hand this is, of
course, an appreciable development, that
however on the other hand seems to be
highly chaotic and problematic.
In order to explore the expanding field
of visual representation in science, Pauwels
has gathered an international selection of
scholars from different disciplines, who po-
sition themselves ‘‘far beyond any naı¨ve no-
tion of science’’ (p. XI). After the introduc-
tion, in the first chapter he tries to build a
general theoretical framework that might
prove useful in examining the different le-
vels, layers, and aspects at stake. Further-
more, this framework could be read as an
outline for a programme – very ambitious
indeed – to develop a kind of ‘‘visual lit-
eracy’’ among scientists. When not pro-
BOOK REVIEWS 423
duced and used with extreme competence,
representational practices may create confu-
sion and misunderstanding. What Pauwels
thinks important in order to avoid the dan-
ger, is to complement a mere ‘‘object ap-
proach’’ with a substantial ‘‘process ap-
proach’’. In other words, he believes that
we should link each visual representation
(which is not a free-standing product of
scientific activity) with its context of pro-
duction. An interesting suggestion, I would
say, although it is hard to foresee how easily
this recommended shift could really foster
the spread of a true visual literacy in the
scientific practice. A second article by Pau-
wels concerns filmmaking in anthropology
and sociology, insisting again on a more
conscious and reflexive attitude that scien-
tists in general should assume.
Two texts by the sociologist of science
Michael Lynch are here included, the first
being a critical assessment (already pub-
lished in 1998) of what studies of visualiza-
tion might be about, as visualization is not a
single kind of practice or process. The sec-
ond goes back to 1985, when Lynch ar-
gued, by examining images, that scientific
data are neither wholly out there, nor sim-
ply constructed out of thin air. More or less
explicitly, the other contributions are classic
case histories. Bernike Pasveer gives a
detailed account of the advent of X-ray
photography as an example of visualization
of natural phenomena technologically
mediated and influenced. Basing himself
on some Renaissance episodes, Francesco
Panese shows how scientific iconography
was then founded on a code that aimed at
establishing a regime of credibility, for in-
stance when monstrous creatures were
shown. Wall charts as a didactic genre are
analysed by Massimiano Bucchi, who ex-
plains their diffusion in the period 1870-
1920 with a change in the style of scientific
education, but also with the introduction of
lithographic technology. Three authors
(Cambrosio, Jacobi, Keating) deal with de-
piction used in immunology and especially
focus on a series of images that Linus Paul-
ing inserted in a 1948 article on antibody
formation. John Grady explores the work
of the statistician and political scientist Ed-
ward Tufte in the field of information de-
sign since the 1970s, where aesthetics seems
strictly connected with cognitive, moral,
and political issues. The last chapter, by
Jean Trumbo, takes the editor’s argument
of a visual literacy again and points out a
program for increasing it at the various le-
vels of scientific communication. As anyone
can see, the book stands in witness of the
extreme variety of methods and subjects
that the study of the visual in science can
tolerate.
CLAUDIO POGLIANO
424 BOOK REVIEWS

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