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Search tags: history-of-things
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review 2020-08-17 09:49
German: Biography of a Language by Ruth H. Sanders
German: Biography of a Language - Ruth H. Sanders

TITLE: German: Biography of a Language

 

AUTHOR:  Ruth H. Sanders

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DESCRIPTION:

"Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language.

Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She sheds light on the influence of such events as the bloody three-day Battle of Kalkriese, which permanently halted the incursion of both the Romans and the Latin language into northern Europe, and the publication of Martin Luther's German Bible translation, a "People's" Bible which in effect forged from a dozen spoken dialects a single German language. The narrative ranges through the turbulent Middle Ages, the spread of the printing press, the formation of the nineteenth-century German Empire which united the German-speaking territories north of the Alps, and Germany's twentieth-century military and cultural horrors. The book also covers topics such as the Gothic language (now extinct), the vast expansion of Germanic tribes during the Roman era, the role of the Vikings in spreading the Norse language, the branching off of Yiddish, the lasting impact of the Thirty Years War on the German psyche, the revolution of 1848, and much more.

Ranging from prehistoric times to modern, post-war Germany, this engaging volume offers a fascinating account of the evolution of a major European language as well as a unique look at the history of the German people. It will appeal to everyone interested in German language, culture, or history.
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REVIEW:

 

Interesting and informative, but too repetitive.

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review 2020-08-11 11:03
The Clock and the Camshaft by John W. Farrell
The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can't Live Without - John W. Farrell

TITLE:  The Clock and the Camshaft: And Other Medieval Inventions We Still Can't Live Without

 

AUTHOR:  John W. Farrell

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9781633885721

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DESCRIPTION:

"This history of medieval inventions, focusing on the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries, vividly portrays a thriving era of human ingenuity—and the results are still being felt to this day. From the mechanical clock to the first eyeglasses, both of which revolutionized society, many of the commonplace devices we now take for granted had their origin in the Middle Ages. Divided into ten thematic chapters, the accessible text allows the reader to sample areas of interest or read the book from beginning to end for a complete historical overview.

A chapter on the paper revolution shows that innovations in mill power enabled the mass production of cheap paper, which was instrumental in the later success of the printing press as a means of disseminating affordable books to more people. Another chapter examines the importance of Islamic civilization in preserving ancient Greek texts and the role of translation teams in Sicily and Spain in making those texts available in Latin for a European readership. A chapter on instruments of discovery describes the impact of the astrolabe, which was imported from Islamic lands, and the compass, originally invented in China; these tools plus innovations in shipbuilding spurred on the expansion of European trade and the later age of discovery at the time of Columbus.

Complete with original drawings to illustrate how these early inventions worked, this guided tour through a distant era reveals how medieval farmers, craftsmen, women artisans, and clerical scholars laid the foundations of the modern world.
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REVIEW:

 

Short but interesting.

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review 2020-08-11 07:07
Gods and Robots by Adrienne Mayor
Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Tec - Adrienne Mayor

TITLE:  Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology

 

AUTHOR:  Adrienne Mayor

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2020

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780691202266

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DESCRIPTION:

"The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life--and even invented real automated machines

The first robot to walk the earth was a bronze giant called Talos. This wondrous machine was created not by MIT Robotics Lab, but by Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention. More than 2,500 years ago, Greek mythology was exploring ideas about creating artificial life--and grappling with still-unresolved ethical concerns about biotechne, life through craft. In this compelling, richly illustrated book, Adrienne Mayor tells the fascinating story of how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese myths envisioned artificial life, automata, self-moving devices, and human enhancements--and how these visions relate to and reflect the ancient invention of real animated machines. Revealing how science has always been driven by imagination, and how some of today's most advanced tech innovations were foreshadowed in ancient myth, Gods and Robots is a gripping new story of mythology for the age of AI.
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REVIEW:

 

This is an interesting and informative overview of what ancient myths (mostly Greek and Roman, but a few others) have to say about machines, robots, artificial intelligence (i.e. creatures made not born) and their implied philosophical questions.  The book also provides a chapter that covers the mechanics and technology during antiquity.  Mayor provides an eye-opening and transformative manner of looking at the ancient myths. I enjoyed this scholarly book a great deal.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-04-30 09:16
Vampires, Burial, and Death by Paul Barber
Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality - Paul Barber

TITLE:  Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality

 

AUTHOR:  Paul Barber

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1988

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780300041262

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DESCRIPTION:

 

"In this engrossing book, Paul Barber surveys centuries of folklore about vampires and offers the first scientific explanation for the origins of the vampire legends.  From the tale of a sixteenth-century shoemaker from Breslau whose ghost terrorized everyone in the city, to the testimony of a doctor who presided over the exhumation and dissection of a graveyard full of Serbian vampires, his book is fascinating reading."

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REVIEW:

 

An interesting and fascinating examination of the possible causes of various vampire legends and mythologies, focusing on what happens to a corpse during decomposition.  The occasional droll observations were entertaining.  The author also differentiates between vampire folklore/legends and literature, which are rather different.  A bit repetitive.

 

 

 

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review 2020-04-13 13:21
Epidemics and Society by Frank M. Snowden
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present - Frank M. Snowden

TITLE:   Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present

 

AUTHOR:   Frank M. Snowden

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2019

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9780300192216

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DESCRIPTION:

"A wide-ranging study that illuminates the connection between epidemic diseases and societal change, from the Black Death to Ebola

This sweeping exploration of the impact of epidemic diseases looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, from the Black Death to today. In a clear and accessible style, Frank M. Snowden reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and public health, but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare.

A multidisciplinary and comparative investigation of the medical and social history of the major epidemics, this volume touches on themes such as the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria. In addition to providing historical perspective on diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis, Snowden examines the fallout from recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and the question of the world’s preparedness for the next generation of diseases.
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REVIEW:

 

Snowden provides an interesting overview of how societies (and their governments) at various times and places dealt with disease epidemics.  The epidemics discussed in this book include the 3 bubonic plague epidemics, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, TB, malaria, polio, HIV/AIDS and emerging diseases such as ebola and SARS.  Also examined is the effect these epidemics had on historical incidences such as the outcomes of wars and changes in culture; for example the effects of yellow fever, dysentery and typhus on Napoleon's war efforts.  An interesting, informative, easy to digest, but not frivolous, look at how disease epidemics effect society.

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