Concise History of Science and Invention : An Illustrated Time Line

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-10-27
  • Publisher: National Geographic
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This concise, organized look at humankind's key scientific and innovative achievements spans all human history, presenting 10 distinct eras from the first glimmers of intelligence to the cutting-edge technologies of the modern world. 350 photographs.


Seven Scientific Turning Points That Changed the World

From the new book,National Geographic Concise History of Science and Invention: An Illustrated Time Line

1. The World’s First City

The settlement at Çatal Hüyük in Anatolia (modern Turkey) dates from about 6000 B.C.E. at the latest. The houses butted closely together and had flat roofs, reached by means of ladders. The people grew crops and irrigated the fields. They supplemented their diet by hunting animals. They wove cloth, made baskets and clay pots, and tanned hides to make leather. Nearby volcanoes produced a hard, glasslike obsidian, which the people of Çatal Hüyük made into knives and other tools. The obsidian was also traded with neighboring peoples. Each house had a religious shrine decorated with figurines and the heads and horns of animals. The dead were left outside exposed to the elements before their remains were buried under the houses.

2. The Library at Alexandria

The greatest collection of documents in classical times was kept in a library in Alexandria, northern Egypt. The library was founded by pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter (r. 323–283 B.C.E.) at the beginning of the third century B.C.E. and built up by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus (r. 283–46 B.C.E.). Established as part of the research “department” of the Alexandrian Museum, it had a smaller section, the Serapeum, located in the nearby Temple of Serapis that was established by Ptolemy III Euergetes (r. 246–22 B.C.E.). The hundreds of thousands of vellum and papyrus scrolls included nearly all the works of the Greek poets and dramatists, based originally on copies of the works in Aristotle’s library in Athens. The large staff included translators, editors, and scribes, who kept adding texts to the collection. Fire damaged part of the library in 269 C.E., and rioting during a civil war led to its final destruction. The Serapeum was pillaged by a Christian mob in 391.

3. Avicenna

The first European printing of the Canon of Medicine was a milestone in the development of medicine. Its author, Ibn-Sina—whose name was Latinized as “Avicenna” for publication in a field still dominated by the ideas of ancient Roman and Greek physicians—was a Persian philosopher and physician. He was born in a village near Bokhara (now Bukhara in present-day Uzbekistan). He studied there and traveled widely. He learned all the classical Arab texts and mastered astronomy, Greek, mathematics, and all the available texts on medicine. At age 18 he became a court physician, then vizier (advisor) at the Buyid court in Hamadan, and from 1024 was physician to several sultans. As well as introducing the works of Aristotle to the Islamic world, Ibn-Sina also wrote more than 100 works on science, philosophy, and religion. His pioneering medical work, however, was his most important contribution to the spread of knowledge. The Canon of Medicine, written in 1000, remained a standard medical textbook for centuries. It contains instructions for testing medications, guidelines for diagnosing disease by examining the patient, and advice to surgeons to learn anatomy from observation and dissection, rather than from textbooks.

4. Quinine

The isolation of the chemical compound quinine by French chemists Pierre Pelletier and Joseph Caventou in 1820 was a breakthrough with wide-reaching consequences in medicine and politics. Quinine is a compound found in the bark of the cinchona tree in South America. For centuries it was used by the Quechua peoples of Peru as a muscle relaxant to suppress shivering, and missionaries who saw this use brought the bark back to Europe in the 17th century, believing it would relieve the shivering associated with malarial fevers. It proved highly effective, not only stopping the shivering but also halting the advance of the disea

Excerpted from Concise History of Science and Invention: An Illustrated Time Line by National Geographic Society Staff
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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