UW Today

November 2, 2015

Modern world learns from ancient civilizations in Scott Montgomery’s history of science

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"A History of Science in World Cultures" by the UW's Scott L. Montgomery, with Alok Kumar.

“A History of Science in World Cultures” by the UW’s Scott L. Montgomery, with Alok Kumar.

Scott L. Montgomery, a lecturer in the Jackson School of International Studies, uses a range of case studies and the notion of “scientific culture” to trace the evolution of technical thought through eight major civilizations from ancient Egypt to Medieval and Renaissance Europe in his latest book, “A History of Science in World Cultures.”

“A number of themes emerge,” said Montgomery. “The mobility of knowledge, the role of libraries, translation as a historical force, science and religion, science and art, and the nature of scientific authority, among others.”

He said he and co-author Alok Kumar of State University of New York, Oswego “seek to set the record straight on some major questions that have hung over the history of science, such as the degree to which Europe’s scientific revolution depended on earlier ideas from other cultures.”

Montgomery said the book makes clear “the profound debt modern science owes to premodern thought from different parts of the world.”

It also offers a new answer to history’s age-old “Needham Question,” or why modern science developed in the West but not in China or India, despite early advances in those areas.

“The book is much more admiring of China, India and Islam than most histories, as it says Europe’s scientific revolution would not have happened if the West had failed to absorb the learning of these and other scientific cultures,” Montgomery said.

“A History of Science in World Cultures” was published by Routledge.

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For more information, contact Montgomery at 206-897-1611 or scottlm@uw.edu.