The Reviews of Leviathan and the Air-Pump: A Survey

A. Achbari

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    Leviathan and the Air-Pump has come to be viewed as one of the most influential books in the history of science. In the first reviews that appeared after its publication, it was anticipated that the book would generate discussion for decades to come. The early critics were right: the book was full of ingredients for debate, waiting to spark a reaction. The story involved three of Europe’s most prominent natural philosophers in the seventeenth century: Robert Boyle, Thomas Hobbes, and (in a smaller role) Christiaan Huygens. Its subject matter was the new “big science” instrument of its day, the air-pump. It dealt with the emergence of “the experimental method” as a systematic means of producing natural knowledge. And, finally, the story featured two competing ways of resolving disputes over knowledge claims and ways to achieve assent. While a few commentators merely summarized the book, others foresaw at once that it would have quite an impact on the history of science as well as on neighboring fields like the sociology, philosophy, and anthropology of science. In this survey I aim to identify the major themes that critics put forward in reviews of the volume over the first six years after its publication and to detail some points made under each theme.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108-116
    Number of pages9
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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