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February 23, 1976

Causality and Scientific Explanation, vol 1: Medieval and Early Classical Science; vol 2: Classical and Contemporary Science

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1976;235(8):861. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260340065036

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Concepts of causality and of explanation have received intensive study and discussion among philosophers of science, especially those who hold a special interest in physics. But these topics, also fundamental to the biological and medical sciences, have received less attention from historians. Professor Wallace has made an important contribution to both the history and philosophy of science.

The work is in two volumes. The first, devoted especially to scientists, begins with Aristotle (and to a lesser degree his precursors); it then continues with the leading medieval scientists, through the Renaissance, to what Wallace calls "Early Classical Science"—ie, the great figures of the 17th century, Gilbert, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, and Newton. Wallace analyzes the different meanings of causality and the differing modes of explanation in relation to the work of these men. The presentation is distinguished by clear writing and lucid exposition. While the emphasis rests on physics, the discussion of