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The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself
Perhaps the greatest book by one of our greatest historians, The Discoverers is a volume of sweeping range and majestic interpretation. To call it a history of science is an understatement; this is the story of how humankind has come to know the world, however incompletely ("the eternal mystery of the world," Einstein once said, "is its comprehensibility"). Daniel J. Boorstin first describes the liberating concept of time--"the first grand discovery"--and continues through the age of exploration and the advent of the natural and social sciences. The approach is idiosyncratic, with Boorstin lingering over particular figures and accomplishments rather than rushing on to the next set of names and dates. It's also primarily Western, although Boorstin does ask (and answer) several interesting questions: Why didn't the Chinese "discover" Europe and America? Why didn't the Arabs circumnavigate the planet? His thesis about discovery ultimately turns on what he calls "illusions of knowledge." If we think we know something, then we face an obstacle to innovation. The great discoverers, Boorstin shows, dispel the illusions and reveal something new about the world.