Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet

By Ian F. McNeely

“It has the facility to wrench wide-spread elements of historical past into new and incredible shapes.”―Laura Miller, Salon

this is an highbrow extravaganza, a stunning background of the major associations that experience formed and channeled wisdom within the West from the classical interval to the current. shaped with attractiveness and wit, this exhilarating survey consists of us throughout the pivotal issues of institutional swap and cultural transformation. it's jam-packed with memorable characters, from the fancy founding father of the good library at Alexandria and the boastful medieval truth seeker Peter Abelard to the speeding worldwide adventurer von Humboldt. In its compact heritage we discover the fitting context for realizing the colossal alterations we're experiencing now within the panorama of data. 6 illustrations

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As a few see it, the present “information age” threatens to make wisdom as ephemeral as an digital pulse flitting via a fiber-optic cable. we live via one of many routine sessions in international historical past whilst far-reaching adjustments in economics, tradition, and expertise elevate simple questions on the construction, renovation, and transmission of data. How will we adapt to enormously new situations to make sure that we will reproduce ourselves as a tradition? What new associations do we have to manage and transmit the totality of our wisdom? Are traditional libraries out of date? How needs to the conventional college swap? will we proceed to anticipate that clinical advances will enhance our lives? what is going to electronic media do to the construction and distribution of data in phrases and pictures? during this ebook, we ask what mild heritage can shed on those questions. yet rather than being concerned approximately the place wisdom is headed sooner or later, we wish to keep in mind the drama and dynamism surrounding the pursuit of data some time past. rather than chronicling the expansion of a tutorial procedure approximately which many are all too complacent, we wish to express how diversified and interesting or even harmful the lifetime of the brain might be for these confronting comparable upheavals hundreds of thousands, even millions of years in the past. prior to the age of multibillion-dollar college endowments, high-profile executive labs, electronic media, and instant broadband, students have been pioneers and renegades, and data was once a hard-won treasure. every little thing new they discovered used to be at risk of being misplaced and forgotten, no matter if throughout the hostility of these who feared new principles or, extra insidiously, during the uncomplicated overlook of these unwilling to prepare and safeguard a collective civilizational reminiscence. at the present time, as we back face the daunting activity of organizing all our wisdom, we might do good to review the instance of these who confirmed an equivalent boldness to take action lower than way more adversarial stipulations. This tale encompasses a wealthy array of occasions and characters, from the medieval Christian clergymen who devised schemes to maintain wisdom because the Roman Empire crumbled round them to the students who manage a global “Republic of Letters” to unify early smooth Europe because it used to be being torn aside by way of Protestants and Catholics at conflict. It contains Peter Abelard, the conceited medieval philosopher who tangled together with his masters, seduced his big name scholar, Heloise, and wound up looking at his books burn and soreness castration by the hands of his lover’s uncle. And it comprises the private and non-private struggles of Marie Curie, one of many first ladies scientists, who actually poisoned herself to dying with radiation to discover the constitution of the atom. one of many unlikeliest result of the efforts of those women and men, and so on, is a physique of data universal to all who stay, paintings, and research within the so-called Western international, and more and more somewhere else to boot. Medieval theologians like Abelard and atomic physicists like Curie had very various purposes for pursuing knowledge—to understand God, to unveil the secrets and techniques of nature—and but either contributed to what's usually deemed the “Western highbrow culture” and hence to the tale we need to inform during this booklet.

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