In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

REVIEWS 101 considered the terms "Commonwealth" and "sovereign state" incom~ patible both before and after 1931. Inevitably there will be parts of Mr. Carrington's narrative familiar to most readers, but there are few who will not find something fresh. The sections on Canada are adequate, but one feels that the author's interests lie more with the other dominions; South Africa alone receives 103 pages to Canada's 88. Many Canadians will be surprised to read that "the British North America Act stands as one of the most efficient instruments ever devised by man" (p. 558), although Mr. Carrington takes pains to justify the statement . A few slips in fact (on p. 876 Currie is incorrectly called "a career officer of the small Canadian permanent force") and in spelling (on p. 908 Mackenzie King's name is mis-spelt McKenzie) are easily excused in such a large work. Mr. Carrington attaches great importance to personalities and his numerous biographical sketches are an attractive feature of the work, which greatly add to its interest. The two Empire builders who receive the fullest attention are, perhaps significantly, Gibbon Wakefield and Sir George Grey. Quotations from those of the Empire builders who wrote are also used to good effect. Mr. Carrington's style, although not brilliant and occasionally marred by hackneyed phrases or repetitions, is for the most part clear and straightforward, an important consideration in a work that runs to almost half a million words. The British Overseas should be regarded as an important work in the field of imperial history for many years. SHORTER NOTICES The Growth of Scientific Ideas. By WILLIAM P. D. WIGHTMAN. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd [Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited]' 1950. Pp. xii, 495. $7.50. Dr. Wightman's book is a significant addition to the literature dealing with science for the citizen. It is not, however, a popular history of science, but rather an informed study of scientific thought in terms of the growth of a few dominant ideas. Roughly two-thirds of the book is devoted to a discussion of the rise and development of the concepts of matter and motion. The remaining one-third deals similarly with the concept of life. The author has not attempted to carry his treatment beyond the end of the nineteenth century, so that 102 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY the discussion of physics concludes with the work of Maxwell and Hertz, and the discussion of biology with the work of Weismann. The book is, therefore, wholly concerned with the background of contemporary science. Unlike such writers as Crowther, Farrington, and Hogben, Dr. Wightman does not hold that socia-economic factors are the primary determinants of scientific thought. On the contrary, he holds that ideas have an inner dynamic of their own which determines in large measure their history. His point of view here has been influenced, as he states, by the philosophical doctrines of Collingwood and Whitehead . Hence, throughout the book he seeks to show "that no scientific entity-atom, organ, or wave-is merely itself, but is constantly evolving in a context of associated ideas" (p. vi). Scientific knowledge is thus "organic" in character. It does not accumulate like a heap of pebbles, but grows like a living thing. "The old writer knew what he was talking about when he wrote of the 'tree of knowledge'" (p. 114) . From this perspective Dr. Wightman discusses the birth of scientific notions among the Greeks; the rise of terrestrial and universal mechanics with the work of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton; and the development of the concepts of heat, light, matter, and electromagnetism as a result of investigations by Boyle, Fresnel, Dalton, Faraday, and Maxwell. At various points, for example in his description of the work of Ampere, he succeeds in showing unfamiliar relations among familiar ideas. He also calls attention to certain neglected masterpieces, such as Borelli's De Motu Animalium ( 1680), and indicates their proper place in the stream of science. When he deals with the fundamental concepts of biology, Dr. Wightman naturally devotes much space to evolution. Yet he holds that the central problem of biology, "viewed as the science of living things, is...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 101-103
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.