A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future

Charles Van Doren, Author
Charles Van Doren, Author Citadel Press $24.95 (422p) ISBN 978-1-55972-037-3
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1960
Van Doren has a gift for the felicitous turn of phrase. On photography: ``The camera catches us in the act of being human.'' On Marxism: ``More than a billion persons are ruled in the name of something that does not yet and may never exist.'' A readable refresher course in Western civilization, his account extends from the dawn of recorded history at Sumer to tomorrow's computers, which may be ``true thinking machines.'' Former editorial director of Encyclopedia Britannica , Van Doren ( The Joy of Reading ) also proffers peculiar or controversial opinions--for example, his portrayal of Columbus as a ``probably mad'' monomaniac. On balance, this delightful mini-encyclopedia provokes as much as it informs, with meditations on topics ranging from Socrates's concept of human equality to Mozart, Kafka, the Big Bang, mass media and AIDS. (Jan.)