, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 521-522
Date: 09 Oct 2012

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Confronted by a telescope, we might have expected, “the presumed excellence of the Chinese in science to have propelled them forward in the seventeenth century, making significant discoveries and laying the foundations for a unified celestial and terrestrial physics” (p. 97). Therein lies in essence the thesis of this book: The Chinese could have done it if only they had not lacked curiosity. The telescope was the most significant element of the new science of the seventeenth century—we are asked to believe—and it enabled Westerners to see what the Chinese just could not see. Why did this happen?

We are left by the author to conclude that Westerners were simply more curious, more innovative—yes, you guessed it—more precocious, even superior. Huff has no idea what went into the Western “seeing” through the telescope: the study of Renaissance art techniques that made shadows something to be cast by real bodies, or atomic theory that permitted the postulate of uniformity in the matter of n ...