Renaissance Roots of Modern Science

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations

March 06, 2012 Belmont Media Center, Belmont MA

Toby Lester is author of two widely acclaimed books, The Fourth Part of the World (2009) and Da Vinci’s Ghost (2012). Mr. Lester is an independent journalist whose articles have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Smithsonian, American Scholar, London Times and The BBC Magazine. He is especially well known for some of his lead articles in The Atlantic Monthly, where he has also served on the editorial staff.

Both of Toby Lester’s books describe how new ideas about the physical world, Nature and humanity emerged from the dynamic Renaissance period. Over a couple of centuries European mysticism and orthodox views of the world slowly yielded to an emerging scientific perspective. In this rich period of discovery on many fronts, ideas of ancient Greece and Rome and knowledge from Islamic scholars helped to shape more sophisticated thinking.

In The Fourth Part of the World international trade and exploration made it necessary to create more accurate maps. But the new maps represented more than geography. The more accurate maps were accompanied by a gradual shift in how the world –not just the globe– was perceived. In Da Vinci’s Ghost it is the effort to understand the deep order underlying all natural structures and the belief that human anatomy was the highest expression of that order. These ideas were represented in the iconic drawing of Vitruvian Man.

Mr. Lester visits with Science for the Public to discuss the intellectual changes during the Renaissance that helped to build the foundation of modern science. He also considers parallels between the paradigm shift associated with the Renaissance and the one we observe in our own unique era.

Toby Lester’s Boston Globe article on the Waldseemuller map and its great cultural and scientific significance, which he describes in The Fourth Part of the World.

Reviews for Da Vinci’s Ghost

Reviews for The Fourth Part of the World