On re-reading this opening paragraph of the Kepler chapters in Arthur Koestler’s The Sleepwalkers of , I have no trouble perceiving what. Arthur Koestler. The Sleepwalkers. A History of Man’s changing vision of the Universe. With an Introduction by. Herbert Butterfield. 1. Awakening. We can add to. An extraordinary history of humanity’s changing vision of the universe. In this masterly synthesis, Arthur Koestler cuts through the sterile.

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But let me first outline what the book is about.

Also regarding the future, he felt that man was at the crossroads in which he would either destroy himself atomically or take off for the stars. Koestler clearly has a fondness for this mathematically-gifted, Rhenish son of a downtrodden mercenary soldier and an accused witch, and it proves to be contagious. It isn’t as well-known as it should be that the Copernican universe used the same machinery as the Sleepwalkers one – intricate arrangements of revolving spheres – but Copernicus’s argument was that the arrangement of spheres was simpler if you let the Earth rotate and go kowstler the Sun.

Galileo’s opponents were not the nitwits we believed them to be. The key idea of the book is that revolutionary scientists are not purely rational super-beings, but that their actions, and thoughts, like everybody else, were influenced by contemporary social conditions and Dogma. The contrast was not against the traditional Ptolemaic system everything goes round the Earthbut against the much more slepwalkers system proposed by Tycho Brahe the Sun and the Moon go round sleepwalers Earth, artnur the other planets go round the Sun.

However Galileo proclaimed that the heliocentric model was the correct one, which the Church said it was alright to formulate that hypothesis, but he could not say that it was “the” correct one, unless he could prove it!

A second subtopic of the book is the division, which is now complete, of science and religion. The particular tragedy of Galileo was that his two major works were only published after his seventieth year.

The Sleepwalkers (Koestler book) – Wikipedia

But then Plato and Aristotle severed the link between theory and observation and reverted to a system which placed the Earth back in the middle of the universe, with everything else rotating around it on koeatler increasingly complex system of crystal spheres; this new geocentric theory received its final incarnation in the work of Ptolemy, in the second century A.


As a result, man’s destiny was no longer determined from “above” by a superhuman wisdom and will, but from “below” by the sub-human agencies of glands, genes, atoms, or waves of probability.

While I don’t think it’s a “provocative” book any more as Sir Bernard Lovell claimed 40 years agoit’s a wonderful re-tangling of the humanities and sciences and a arthuur way to get a quick understanding of how the major scientific discoveries of the last few millennia unfolded as well as a sense for the scientists and movements that made them. The contrast between his carelessness about his name and his extreme precision about dates reflects, from the very outset, a mind to whom all ultimate reality, the essence of religion, of truth and beauty, was contained in the language of numbers.

It traces the history of Western cosmology from ancient Mesopotamia to Isaac Newton.

In fact, according to Heilbron’s recent Galileo book, the church had pretty much returned to its position on heliocentrism by and to its pre position byin time for Catholics to read Newton whose Principia never went on slespwalkers Index. The idea of the universe with walls can be traced to the Bible, similar to the idea that heavenly bodies having ladders and pulleys The first half, on whose strength this rating is based, was a masterpiece.

He mouths the same old criticisms of Plato slepwalkers Aristotle, essentially blaming them for the beliefs of their later followers.

The Sleepwalkers

Since the scientific aethur of Kepler, Galileo, Descartes and Newton, mechanical causality has wleepwalkers supreme in scientists’ thinking. These thoughts held astronomy, and perhaps all science, back for years. And so you’ll read how he took elements from Kepler and from Galileo, and improved their examinations.

Koestler describes the creators of the history of cosmic theories as obsessive and schizophrenic, with acts of insight imitating a sleepwalker, rather than a great universal thinker. Mamaine Koestler’s Letters —51 Arthur Koestler: I think I read 2 of Koestler’s bks. Of particular interest are the quite detailed biographical sections of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler.

He committed suicide in in London. Koestler brings a true passion to his cosmographical history, detailing man’s theorizations and beliefs on the nature of the universe from ancient Mesopotamia through to the enforced recantation by Galileo of his heliocentric confirmations and the synthesis of his predecessor’s pioneering work by Newton to establish the basis of modern science.

The beginning of this journey starts in Babylonia and ends with Newton. Nov 27, Denisa rated it it was amazing Shelves: I have now read this book 3 times and I think I will re-read it at least one or two more times!


Classic history of ideas. For other uses, see Sleepwalker. We, historians of science, deal with all of this: It was interesting to see how it took several hundred more years to rediscover Ptolemaic astronomy, which was then treated almost literally as Gospel truth. To ask other readers questions about The Sleepwalkersplease sign up. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Looking back at the road along which human science travelled, one has the image of a aethur bridge with rafters jutting out from both sides; and in between, nothing.

The Road to Great Discovery Is Itself a Thing of Wonder

His ‘earth shattering’ work was practically unreadable. Alas, this is the only bk I’ve read in my a I think I read 2 of Koestler’s bks.

The divine reality has kosetler too small. Koestler points out a host of perplexing divergences from the myth. This history is all good but when it becomes too much the tide turns. But the most surprising part was the chapter on Galileo, which differed from the familiar account to such a large extent that I could hardly believe my eyes.

By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. He shows how the tragic split between science and religion arose and how, in particular, the modern world-view replaced the medieval world-view in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Return to Book Page. May 31, Mbogo J rated it really liked it. The point is that from my perspective right now, this is a golden book. Koestler also doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that Galileo potentially had a lot to gain in attacking Kepler directly during the s to clear Copernican theory from its association with Lutheranism and heretical Lutheranism at that but in fact treated him relatively, and uncharacteristically, gently even in the Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems.

He puts in more detail than he needs to, sometimes for no obvious reason, and it feels too long. The rest of Part 5 deals with Newton’s wonderful synthesis, which seems so obvious to us now, which explains Kepler’s laws by sorting out the wheat from the chaff of ideas in circulation at the time.