• The Light Ages

  • The Surprising Story of Medieval Science
  • By: Seb Falk
  • Narrated by: Seb Falk
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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The Light Ages

By: Seb Falk
Narrated by: Seb Falk
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Publisher's Summary

An illuminating guide to the scientific and technological achievements of the Middle Ages through the life of a crusading astronomer-monk.

Soaring Gothic cathedrals, violent crusades, the Black Death: These are the dramatic forces that shaped the medieval era. But the so-called Dark Ages also gave us the first universities, eyeglasses, and mechanical clocks. As medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky, they came to develop a vibrant scientific culture.

In The Light Ages, Cambridge science historian Seb Falk takes us on a tour of medieval science through the eyes of one 14th-century monk, John of Westwyk. Born in a rural manor, educated in England's grandest monastery, and then exiled to a clifftop priory, Westwyk was an intrepid crusader, inventor, and astrologer. From multiplying Roman numerals to navigating by the stars, curing disease, and telling time with an ancient astrolabe, we learn emerging science alongside Westwyk and travel with him through the length and breadth of England and beyond its shores. On our way, we encounter a remarkable cast of characters: the clock-building English abbot with leprosy, the French craftsman-turned-spy, and the Persian polymath who founded the world's most advanced observatory.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Seb Falk (P)2020 Tantor

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What listeners say about The Light Ages

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating exploration of medieval science

As a medievalist, I wanted to stand up and cheer as I listened to _The Light Years’_ epilogue. Seb Falk makes a brilliantly compelling argument that the use of “medieval” as a synonym for “backward,” “stupid,” or worse (I’m looking at you, Quentin Tarantino) not only misrepresents the reality of medieval science, but also ignores the enormous debt modern scientists owe to techniques, instruments, and theories developed in the Middle Ages. Falk paints a portrait of medieval science as a global enterprise, in which ideas and texts circulated around the world, paying particular attention to the debts owed by European scientists to Muslim scholars (and showing how various Muslim men of science were honored in Western texts and images).The scientific theories and techniques that Falk describes are challenging, but he includes many helpful illustrations as well as a website with added details. The portrait he paints of the daily lives of monastic scientists is vividly rendered, making the Middle Ages come to life in a fascinating way. This book would be an excellent teaching text for courses or units on the History of Science, astronomy and astrology, or Chaucer’s _Treatise on the Astrolabe_, to which Falk brings a great deal of clarity. Falk is also an excellent narrator; it’s a pleasure to listen to him. Overall, a terrific book!

2 people found this helpful

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Lots of fluff, but still interesting

The book contains lots of useful information, but it's very clear the author added lots of fluff to meet publisher word requirements. It is nice that the author was the one who narrated the book, as his personality comes through more clearly. He has a sexy voice, especially when he starts reading old English.

The last 2 hours felt like they dragged on.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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not suited for an audio book

pretty good filler book, neat conceit for looking at history, excellent narration. just.... there's too much to see in the book, it focuses on the pictures and charts and follow along at home math, and that just doesn't work for an audio book. get a physical copy instead.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting and informative but not convincing

Lots of interesting material more pre to early Renaissance than medieval and much taken from Islamic world.

1 person found this helpful

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Informative

While some of the math was beyond me, I found the bulk of the narrative to be very informative. It certainly gave me a different perspective on a time period that my history teachers tended to gloss over in favor of more “exciting” eras.

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Great book - Poorly performed.

I found the reader's volume modulation particularly annoying He began his sentences strongly then, constantly let his words trail off at the end, obscuring the meaning.

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Wonderful introduction to “medieval” science

This book was really eye opening. I thoroughly enjoyed the authors writing style. I also enjoyed his performance as the narrator. His passion for the subject is evident in his presentation which makes listening all the better. I hope he will continue to author works that present the forgotten history of science.

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Too Technical For Me But Maybe Not You

I loved hearing about the monks. I was fascinated to hear about their daily lives and their intellectual pursuits. The author makes a very interesting point that folks were doing science back then, it’s just that because they just did it to understand God’s plan better we don’t count it as science. Unfortunately the level of technical detail is so intense I couldn’t finish the book. If you are “into” science instruments and math and how astronomical features are measured and how calendars are constructed you will love it. But I couldn’t follow it after the first few basics.

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Lovely subject, heavy on astronomy.

Detailed and interesting, warm and likable. These monks and astronomers were smart cookies. The author loves the subject and does a terrific job of dispelling the myth that people in the "medieval" world were just dirty, illiterate flat-earthers. My only criticism is that there's a huge amount of astronomy and geometry discussed throughout the book. Some listeners may find that tiresome. That said, I'm grateful for the thoughtful dive into the subject that this book provides.

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Delightful look at medieval science and technology

The book got a very good review in the recent issue of Science and it turns out to be a great audible book as well. There are numerous references to illustrations but I never felt their loss detracted from listening. The author is the reader and he has an enjoyable voice and communicates excitement over the subject.

I've done some reading on the period and I was vaguely aware that there were significant technical advances during the middle ages but this book really opens up the range of discovery and the breadth of sharing that occurred and situates it- why was knowing time so important?

A not at all "dry as dust" history.