The Invention of Science covers so much ground, and so many thinkers, heralded and unheralded, you will need to take frequent pauses to catch your breath. There are intellectual fireworks galore here; and if Wootton is a touch arrogant about his own views, his vigorous account of how science became the way of the world is more than welcome.
This makes for a big book, with some historiographical chapters (and appendices) that are unlikely to be of interest to readers who are not historians of science over the age of 50. At its core, however, are remarkable essays on the vocabulary of the age of discovery, including terms such as facts, experiments, laws, hypotheses, theories, evidence and judgment.
As a glance at any day's headlines makes depressingly obvious, we live in a world where facts and evidence and logic still have quite a lot of work to do. In telling such an animated version of the greatest adventure story of human history, Wootton makes that work a little easier.
Wootton, in his new, encyclopedic history, The Invention of Science (Harper), recognizes the blurred lines between magic and science but insists that the revolution lay in the public nature of the new approach.