history of science, history of numeracy, quantitative literacy


I. Bernard Cohen, The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005). 209 pp. $24.95 (USA). ISBN 0-393-05769-0.

The premier historian of science ends his career telling how the world has become awash in numbers—“how numbers entered the conduct of life and of government, the understanding of nature, and the analysis of societies.” The stories begin with Kepler and end with Florence Nightingale. In between, major players include Galileo, Harvey, Leeuwenhoek, and Halley; Graunt and Petty; Jefferson and Franklin; Lavoisier, Sinclair, Pinel and Louis; Guerry and Quetelet. The book tells of the spread of what Cohen refers to as the “quantifying spirit” from physical science to “political arithmetic” (Sir William Petty), economics, and the beginning of psychiatry, sociology, medical statistics, and public health.



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