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Aestimatio: Critical Reviews in the History of Science, Volume 1

Alan Bowen and Tracey Rihll, editors
Gorgias Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
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Aestimatio is an online journal dedicated to publishing serious reviews of serious books dealing with the history of science from antiquity to early modern times. Its founding premise is that “the finest reward for research and publication is constructive criticism from expert readers committed to the same enterprise.” All of the reviews are available online, but historians are trained to take the long view; they know that paper is proven to last for many centuries while electronic technology, while expected to, may not. Thus, Gorgias Press has agreed to issue printed volumes collecting past reviews. This first volume collects reviews first published in 2004.

Modern historians of science are deeply committed to studying the work of ancient scholars in a way that respects their view of the world. In the ancient world, astrology was just as much “science” as medicine was, for example, so books on ancient astrology are included, as are books on Aristotelian philosophy.

The reviews collected in this first volume offer quite a lot to the reader interested in the history of mathematics. The books reviewed include Jens Høyrup’s magisterial summation of his work on ancient Mesopotamian “algebra”, Lengths, Widths, Surfaces, L. E. Sigler’s translation of Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci, and A. Imhausen’s Ägyptische algorithmen. With the insights in the latter, says Eleanor Robson, “ancient Egyptian mathematics has returned from the dead.” Several of the reviews discuss books that give important context, such as The Enterprise of Science in Islam, edited by J. P. Hogendijk and A. I Sabra.

Given the price, most individual readers will prefer to read these reviews online. Libraries, however, may well want to consider buying the printed books, especially if they aspire to fulfill their archival role with respect to the history of science.

I guess I’m an old fogey. I had read some of these reviews online when they appeared, but not all. Having them collected in a book encouraged me to read them all, and to enjoy them more.

Fernando Q. Gouvêa is the editor of MAA Reviews.

The table of contents is not available.