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Reconfiguring the World Nature, God, and Human Understanding from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Europe by Margaret J. Osler

Reconfiguring the World Nature, God, and Human Understanding from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Europe

Part of the Johns Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Science Series


Reconfiguring the World Nature, God, and Human Understanding from the Middle Ages to Early Modern Europe by Margaret J. Osler

Change in human understanding of the natural world during the early modern period marks one of the most important episodes in intellectual history. This era is often referred to as the scientific revolution, but recent scholarship has challenged traditional accounts. Here, in Reconfiguring the World, Margaret J. Osler treats the development of the sciences in Europe from the early sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries as a complex and multifaceted process.The worldview embedded in modern science is a relatively recent development. Osler aims to convey a nuanced understanding of how the natural world looked to early modern thinkers such as Galileo, Descartes, Boyle, and Newton. She describes investigation and understanding of the natural world in terms that the thinkers themselves would have used. Tracing the views of the natural world to their biblical, Greek, and Arabic sources, Osler demonstrates the impact of the Renaissance recovery of ancient texts, printing, the Protestant Reformation, and the exploration of the New World. She shows how the traditional disciplinary boundaries established by Aristotle changed dramatically during this period and finds the tensions of science and religion expressed as differences between natural philosophy and theology.Far from a triumphalist account, Osler's story includes false starts and dead ends. Ultimately, she shows how a few gifted students of nature changed the way we see ourselves and the universe.


An invaluable contribution to the literature of the history and philosophy of science, presented with clarity, intelligence, and economy... Highly recommended. * Choice * Osler's approach is steady and the language she uses plain and concise, making Reconfiguring the World a very enjoyable book to read, interesting and easily accessible for the reader who has yet to make acquaintance with these important topics. -- Francesco Barreca * Nuncius * Given Osler's status as an expert on both the scientific revolution and the relations between science and religion in the early modern world, it is no surprise that the book offers and authoritative overview of changing knowledge of the natural world during this period. -- Peter Harrison * Isis * This book is an apt legacy for a scholar who, while lauded for her research and writing, was also well-loved in the classroom and who took great pains as a teacher and thesis supervisor. Aimed at undergraduates, it will have its place in both history of science courses and surveys of the early modern period. It will as well satisfy anyone in need of a primer on the nature of early modern science. -- Gary W. Jenkins * Sixteenth Century Journal * [This] book would be an excellent key text in courses on theology, philosophy, science or history, since it does not talk down to the reader well-versed in these areas while remaining accessible to the non-specialist. In this sense Osler follows in the footsteps of the people she so obviously admires, breaking down interdisciplinary boundaries and suggesting new ways of seeing the (historical) world. -- Benita Blessing * European History Quarterly *

About the Author

Margaret J. Osler is a professor of history at the University of Calgary.

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Book Info

Publication date

27th July 2010


Margaret J. Osler

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Johns Hopkins University Press


200 pages


History of science
Philosophy: epistemology & theory of knowledge



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