Newton’s Apple and Other Myths about Science

Edited by Ronald L. Numbers and Kostas Kampourakis. Harvard Univ, $27.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-674-96798-4
Myths die hard no matter how often they are refuted, and this splendid essay collection, edited by Numbers (professor emeritus of the history of science and medicine at the University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Kampourakis (of the University of Geneva, Switzerland), tackles many of the most prevalent and destructive myths about science. A few, such as the idea that before Columbus everyone believed the planet was flat, are well known to be false. Others, especially those about recent scientific developments, are still believed by the general public. One of the most pervasive myths, addressed in many ways throughout the collection, is that science and religion are in a fight to the death. Several other essays address Darwin and aspects of evolutionary theory. The book’s real value lies in the way that each author not only refutes a myth, but traces its origins and points out why it has lasted so long; each brief, well-written essay—they average eight pages—gives the historical context and explains the relevant science. The essayists, the vast majority of whom are professors of history or science, note that even respected scientists such as Carl Sagan and Steven Weinberg have been guilty of repeating long-disproved stories. Understanding these myths is important, as one contributor notes, because they “stand in the way of our understanding of the past, present, and future.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/2015
Release date: 11/04/2015
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