The Scientific Revolution in seventeenth-century Europe was Western civilization’s adolescent growth spurt. Methods were found to expose the workings of Nature and set rolling four centuries of technological, medical, and intellectual progress. No other civilization did that of its own accord, though some have been eager enough to imitate the results. Understanding what exactly happened, and how and why it happened (and how and why it didn’t happen anywhere else) is important. It is also, as contemporary jargon has it, “contested.”

Some of those doing the contesting are the usual suspects, writers of postmodernist bent who object to the whole notion that science progresses and often works its way towards the truth. Wootton writes, “The anxiety which now troubles historians when they read the words ‘scientific,’ ‘revolution,’...


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