Lucio Russo - The Forgotten Revolution - Theory


In The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had to Be Reborn (Italian: La rivoluzione dimenticata), Russo stresses the well-established fact that Hellenistic science reached heights not achieved by the Classical age science, and proposes that it went further than ordinarily thought. These results were lost with the Roman conquest and during the Middle Ages, because the scholars of that period did not have the capability to understand them. The legacy of Hellenistic science was one of the bases of the scientific revolution of the 16th century, as ancient texts started once again to be available in Europe.

According to Russo, Hellenistic scientists were not simply forerunners, but actually achieved scientific results of high importance, in the fields of "mathematics, solid and fluid mechanics, optics, astronomy, anatomy, physiology, scientific medicine", even psychological analysis. They may have even discovered the inverse square law of gravitation (Russo's argument on this point hinges on well-established, but seldom discussed, evidence). Hellenistic scientists, among whom Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, developed an axiomatic and deductive way of argumentation. When this way of argumentation was dropped, the ability to understand the results went lost as well. Thus Russo conjectures that the definitions of elementary geometric objects were introduced in Euclid's Elements by Heron of Alexandria, 400 years after the work was completed. More concretely, Russo shows how the theory of tides must have been well-developed in Antiquity, because several pre-Newtonian sources relay various complementary parts of the theory without grasping their import or justification (getting the empirical facts wrong but the theory right).

A second contribution of Russo's is the conclusion that "the post-Renaissance scientific revolution of the seventeenth century was basically due to the conscious recovery of the Hellenistic science (not even to its full extent, reached only in the second half of the nineteenth century with Richard Dedekind's and Karl Weierstrass's isolation of the real number concept directly out of Euclid's definition of proportion)."

Read more about this topic:  Lucio Russo, The Forgotten Revolution

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