God's Philosophers

The adjective 'medieval' is now a synonym for superstition and ignorance. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. In "God's Philosophers", James Hannam traces the neglected roots of modern science in the medieval world. He debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth was flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere. Contrary to common belief, the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science, nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution. No Pope tried to ban human dissection or the number zero. On the contrary, as Hannam reveals, the Middle Ages gave rise to staggering achievements in both science and technology: for instance, spectacles and the mechanical clock were both invented in thirteenth-century Europe. Ideas from the Far East, like printing, gunpowder and the compass, were taken further by Europeans than the Chinese had imagined possible. The compass helped Columbus to discover the New World in 1492 while printing allowed an incredible 20 million books to be produced in the first 50 years after Gutenberg published his Bible in 1455. And Hannam argues that scientific progress was often made thanks to, rather than in spite of, the influence of Christianity. Charting an epic journey through six centuries of history, "God's Philosophers" brings back to light the discoveries of neglected geniuses like John Buridan, Nicole Oresme and Thomas Bradwardine, as well as putting into context the contributions of more familiar figures like Roger Bacon, William of Ockham and St Thomas Aquinas. Besides being a thrilling history of a period of surprising invention and innovation, "God's Philosophers" reveals the debt modern science and technology owe to the supposedly 'dark' ages of medieval Europe.

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By Daniel (Milwaukee, WI, Canada) · ★★★★★ · April 22, 2013
God's Philosophers is a well written introduction to medieval natural philosophy. Throughout, Hannam argues that 'science' did not emerge from nowhere with Copernicus or Galileo. Rather, there is a long history of medieval natural philosophy that predates the so-called scientific-revolution and m... ...more
By Resistance is Futile (Minneapolis, MN) · ★★★★☆ · May 13, 2012
Hannam makes the argument that the development in philosophical thinking and study of the natural world in the middle ages is the cornerstone on which science was built during the later “scientific revolution” and that the role of the Catholic Church and medieval philosophy in the development of... ...more
By Andrew (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · July 18, 2011
I've recently finished this book and would like to post my thoughts. I was able to breeze through the book in a relatively short time because I am fascinated with the Middle Ages and the history of science. Hannam is certainly providing a valuable service by offering a counterweight to the irrati... ...more
By Heather (Birmingham, MI) · ★★★★★ · July 18, 2012
I really, really enjoyed this book. The fact that it took me so long is not the relevant factor; the fact that I finished it is.
We think of the time between 476 and 1492, give or take a decade, as "not much happened besides the Crusades." Nothing could be further from the truth. This documents ho... ...more
By Abigail (Chicago, IL) · ★★★★★ · April 24, 2014
very readable. i only wish i had it in hard copy so i could throw it at people's heads when they say "dark ages" (hissssss).

probably my favorite bit was "One noted theologian and astrologer, Richard Holcott (d. 1349), had used his art to confidently predict a peaceful death for himself. Maybe, ly... ...more
By Samuel (Cincinnati, OH) · ★★★★★ · January 19, 2015
Modern history is gradually realizing that the popular conception of the Middle Ages as the "Dark Ages" and the period immediately following it as the "Renaissance" is not only incorrect, but was foisted on us by the arrogance of the humanists of the early 16th Century. Hannam's book "The Origins... ...more
By David (East Lansing, MI) · ★★★★☆ · January 11, 2015
This book is called "The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution", and that title is quite descriptive. I think when I picked it up, I was thinking something more like "how Christianity launched the Scientific Revolution", but the book is really a hist... ...more
By Stuart (The United Kingdom) · ★★★★☆ · June 26, 2014
A very helpful and readable book that reevaluates the contribution of medieval scholarship to the rise of science and the empirical tradition. Along the way the reader is surprised to discover that the myth of the Dark Ages was just that - a myth. Given the lack of access to Greek texts until the... ...more
By Jason (The United States) · ★★★★☆ · July 03, 2012
Written from a historical stance, this book lays out how Christianity has influence, and even given birth to modern science. ...more
By David (Daegu, Gwangyeoksi, Korea, Republic of) · ★★★★☆ · May 14, 2014
Mr. Hannam is a Christian apologist, but, having said that, this is a fascinating history of the evolution of science from the Medieval world of Europe and through Early Modern Europe.

It meant for those that have not read widely in Medieval European history and those that have not thought critic... ...more