The Well-Educated Mind: Science

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most people couldn’t tell a very coherent version of the story of western science. Sure, certain names (Aristotle, Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein) could be pieced together. But in terms of the flow of thought and discovery, I don’t think most of us are there.

A couple of solutions are available. One is to get Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Or, you could read her section on science in The Well-Educated Mind. There is much overlap between the two, including recommended books. The former is obviously more in-depth, so pick your path wisely.

This is the one section of the book is that is entirely new to the updated edition. It does round out things nicely, and helps to fill the lacuna in most people’s reading diet (is that mixing metaphors?).

As with other genres (novels, memoirs, histories, dramas, poetry), Bauer gives a 20 minute history of science writing (402-434):

  • The Natural Philosophers
  • The Observers
  • The Historians
  • The Physicists
  • The Synthesists
  • The Popularizers

She then helps readers learn to read science books following the three stages:

Grammar-Stage Reading (435-439)

  • Read a synopsis
  • Look at the title, cover, and table of contents
  • Define the audience and its relationship to the author
  • Keep a list of terms and definitions
  • Mark anything that confuses you and keep reading

Logic-Stage Reading (439-442)

  • Go back to your marked sections and figure out what they mean
  • Define the field of inquiry
  • What sort of evidence does the writer cite?
  • Identify the places in which the work is inductive, and the areas where it is deductive
  • Flag anything that sounds like a statement of conclusion

Rhetoric-Stage Reading (442-443)

  • What metaphors, analogies, stories, and other literary techniques appear, and why are they there?
  • Are there broader conclusions?

Armed with these questions, you’re now ready for Bauer’s annotated poem and poets list. These lists are good reason enough to buy the book for yourself, but if you just want the list, I got you. I’m mostly linking to the editions she suggests. As a general rule, she guides readers to editions that are cheap and affordable, free of extraneous notes (i.e. critical editions) so you can focus on reading well on your own. It is however helpful in some cases to have some insights into what the author might be up to you that you’d otherwise miss.

With that in mind, here’s the list:

Author: Nate

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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