SHiPS Resource Center ||   BOOK BRIEF

reviewed: 3/97 Space, Time and Man: A Prehistorian's View. Grahame Clark. Cambridge Univ. Pr. (1994). ISBN 0-521-46762-4. $9.95 pb. 165pp.

An understanding of 'time' and 'space' as they feature within human experience has gone through a long development. Toulmin and Goodfield brought this out excitingly in their book, The Discovery of Time (1965). Taking his cue from them, Prof. Clark enlarges upon their history by drawing upon his own field of archaeology and by bringing the latest cosmology into his analysis. To trace people's perceptions of space and time through the course of their social evolution is an audacious project, but Clark handles his themes with assurance. He starts by considering space in preliterate societies. A remarkable quality of human groups as they emerged was their ability to cope with a range of environments well outside those occupied by other primates. Exploration at first over land and later across water allowed the humans to develop a unique spatial consciousness as well as an awareness of a context of time in which to account for present situations in terms of a past. That is, by perceiving these dimensions consciously they freed themselves from the mental set of confined space and present time. With the development of their technologies, humans began to record an awareness of their history and environment. As the early civilizaitons developed, so the conepts of 'time' and 'space' became gradually more sophisticated. Ultimately science took them over, introducing exact measurement and methods for comparing quantities. The scale of consideration enlarged. For example, a sixteenth century objection to the Copernican cosmological system was that stellar parallax could not be observed as the Earth moved from one supposed extreme of its orbit to the other. Copernicus discounted this problem by supposing simply that the stars were such an enormous distance away that the effect was not measurable. Clark takes on this development to present-day exploraitons of space and to speculations about the future of the universe. He packs a great deal into a short and stiumlating book. There is excellent material here for [high school students] because the two concepts Clark discusses are so profound that they relate to many conventional areas of study.

--Bob Ward
courtesy of British Society for the History of Science Education Forum

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