James Burke examines eight periods in history when our view of the world shifted dramatically:
In the eleventh century, when extraordinary discoveries were made by Spanish crusaders.In fourteenth-century Florence, where perspective in painting emerged.In the fifteenth century, when the advent of the printing press shook the foundations of an oral society.In the sixteenth century, when gunnery developments triggered the birth of modern science.In the early eighteenth century, when hot English summers brought on the Industrial Revolution.In the battlefield surgery stations of the French revolutionary armies, where people first became statistics.In the nineteenth century, when the discovery of dinosaur fossils led to the theory of evolution.In the 1820s, when electrical experiments heralded the end of scientific certainty.Based on the popular television documentary series, The Day the Universe Changed is a bestselling history that challenges the reader to decide whether there is absolute knowledge to discover-or whether the universe is "ultimately what we say it is."
How did the popularity of underwear in the twelfth century lead to the invention of the printing press? How did the waterwheel evolve into the computer? How did the arrival of the cannon lead eventually to the development of movies?
In this highly acclaimed and bestselling book, James Burke brilliantly examines the ideas, inventions, and coincidences that have culminated in the major technological advances of today. With dazzling insight, he untangles the pattern of interconnecting events: the accidents of time, circumstance, and place that gave rise to the major inventions of the world.
Says Burke, "My purpose is to acquaint the reader with some of the forces that have caused change in the past, looking in particular at eight innovations—the computer, the production line, telecommunications, the airplane, the atomic bomb, plastics, the guided rocket, and television—which may be most influential in structuring our own futures....Each one of these is part of a family of similar devices, and is the result of a sequence of closely connected events extending from the ancient world until the present day. Each has enormous potential for humankind's benefit—or destruction."
Based on a popular TV documentary series, Connections is a fascinating scientific detective story of the inventions that changed history—and the surprising links that connect them.
In "Room with (Half) a View," for instance, Burke muses about the partly obscured railway bridge outside his home on the Thames. Thinking of the bridge engineer, who also built the steamship that laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable, causes him to recall Samuel Morse; which, in turn, conjures up Morse's neighbor, firearms inventor Sam Colt, and his rival, Remington. One dizzying connection after another leads to Karl Marx's daughter, who attended Socialist meetings with a trombonist named Gustav Holst, who once lived in the very house that blocks Burke's view of the bridge on the Thames. Burke's essays all evolve in this organic manner, highlighting the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated events and innovations. Romantic poetry leads to brandy distillation; tonic water connects through Leibniz to the first explorers to reach the North Pole.
Witty, instructive, and endlessly entertaining, Circles expands on the trademark style that has captivated James Burke fans for years. This unique collection is sure to stimulate and delight history buffs, technophiles, and anyone else with a healthy intellectual curiosity.
Each chapter starts with an event -- such as the U.S. attack on Tripoli in 1804 -- that generates two divergent series of consequences. After tracking each pathway as it ranges far and wide through time and space, Burke shows how the paths finally and unexpectedly converge in the modern world.
Twin Tracks pinpoints the myriad ways the future is shaped, whether by love, war, accident, genius, or discovery. For instance, in "The Marriage of Figaro to Stealth Fighter," Burke's twin tracks start with the composer of the opera and the French spy from whose play he stole the plot. The tracks then encompass, among other things, freemasonry, the War of Independence, Captain Cook, jellyfish, Jane Austen, and audio tape. Ultimately, the convergence of the two Figaro tracks sets the stage for the development of Gulf War Stealth aircraft.
Wonderfully accessible and lucidly written, Twin Tracks offers an amusing and instructive new view of the past and the future.
Illustrating his open, connective theme in the form of a journey across a web, Burke breaks down complex concepts, offering information in a manner accessible to anybody -- high school graduates and Ph.D. holders alike. The journey touches almost two hundred interlinked points in the history of knowledge, ultimately ending where it begins.
At once amusing and instructing, The Knowledge Web heightens our awareness of our interdependence -- with one another and with the past. Only by understanding the interrelated nature of the modern world can we hope to identify complex patterns of change and direct the process of innovation to the common good.
If you enjoyed Martin Sheen as the president on television's The West Wing, then you're connected to founder Josiah Bartlett. The connection from signer Bartlett to Sheen includes John Paul Jones; Judge William Cooper, father of James Fenimore; Sir Thomas Brisbane, governor of New South Wales; an incestuous astronomer; an itinerant math teacher; early inventors of television; and pioneering TV personality Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, the inspiration for Ramon Estevez's screen name, Martin Sheen.
When humans understood that the earth was flat and it was the center of the universe, all life revolved around that truth. Then, Galileo introduced his telescope. And with that single innovation, architecture, music, literature, science, politics—all of it changed, mirroring the new view of truth. This program is James Burke's examination of the moments in history when a change in knowledge radically altered man's understanding of himself and the world around him.
Few people are able to look at human history and see it not as a jumble of half-remembered names and dates, but as an intricate mosaic of neatly interlocking pieces. Fewer still can describe the patterns and explain the parts of the puzzle so that it not only makes sense, but so that it also fascinates and intrigues, excites and entertains. James Burke tells history like it's the plot of the most interesting mystery ever written.