The Map of Knowledge

Violet Moller

3.87 based on 100 ratings & 17 reviews on
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21 February 2019
336 pages

'A lovely debut from a gifted young author. Violet Moller brings to life the ways in which knowledge reached us from antiquity to the present day in a book that is as delightful as it is readable.' Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads

In The Map of Knowledge Violet Moller traces the journey taken by the ideas of three of the greatest scientists of antiquity – Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy – through seven cities and over a thousand years. In it, we follow them from sixth-century Alexandria to ninth-century Baghdad, from Muslim Cordoba to Catholic Toledo, from Salerno’s medieval medical school to Palermo, capital of Sicily’s vibrant mix of cultures, and – finally – to Venice, where that great merchant city’s printing presses would enable Euclid’s geometry, Ptolemy’s system of the stars and Galen’s vast body of writings on medicine to spread even more widely.

In tracing these fragile strands of knowledge from century to century, from east to west and north to south, Moller also reveals the web of connections between the Islamic world and Christendom, connections that would both preserve and transform astronomy, mathematics and medicine from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

Vividly told and with a dazzling cast of characters, The Map of Knowledge is an evocative, nuanced and vibrant account of our common intellectual heritage.

A sumptuous, glittering, endlessly fascinating book, written with passion, verve and humour.

Catherine Nixey, author of The Darkening Age

Euclid’s Elements is the seed from which my subject of mathematics grew. Thanks to Violet Moller’s fascinating and meticulous account I’ve had a glimpse of just how this text, together with works by Ptolemy and Galen, blossomed as they wound their way through the centuries and the seven cities at the heart of her book. What an adventure.

Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and author of The Creativity Code

The Map of Knowledge is extremely important and insightful. It shines a light on how we know what we know about antiquity and the people and cultures we have to thank for the preservation and interpretation of ancient wisdom. We need much more of this!

Professor Michael Scott, author of Ancient Worlds: An Epic History of East and West