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New Left Review I/2, March-April 1960

Edward Whitehead

Counter-Revolutions of the Spheres

The Sleepwalkers. Arthur Koestler. Hutchinsons. 25/-.

sub-titled “A history of man’s changing vision of the universe”, the main part of this book is concerned with the revolution in cosmology associated mostly with the names of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton. In his introduction, Koestler defines his aim as being to inquire into the psychology of scientific discovery and incidentally to debunk legends attaching to it. This is needed. An honest biography of a scientist, especially one alive during the last century or so, is something almost non-existent and Koestler rightly sees that the marble pedestal approach, long abandoned in other branches of historiography, must go here too. So long as science’s official histories insist on pictures of perfection, the complementary unofficial pictures of absent-minded professors, evil geniuses and cold destroyers of spiritual values, etc., must likewise persist.

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Edward Whitehead, ‘Counter-Revolutions of the Spheres’, NLR I/2: £3

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