Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science

Written by Thomas Levenson

In Measure for Measure, Thomas Levenson offers a compelling account of how scientific thinking development from the day 2,500 years ago when Pythagoras discovered the musical scale to the present day. The story unfolds through the tales of instruments scientific and musical: the organ, the microscope, the still, the scales, Stradivari's miraculous violins and cellos, computers, and synthesizers.

What emerges is a unique portrait of science itself as an instrument, our single most powerful way of understanding the world. Yet perhaps the most important invention of modern science has been the power to countenance its own limitations, to find the point beyond which science can explain no more, to rediscover that science, like music, is an art.

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Featured On Episode #180

Measure for Measure

This week, we’re thinking about science as an instrument, and the parallels between an understanding of music and the history of science. Thomas Levenson, Professor of Science Writing at MIT and author of Newton and the Counterfeiter, returns to talk about his 1994 book Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science. And on the podcast, we’re joined by Vaughan Macefield, Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Western Sydney, to talk about his project that translates neural impulses into audible sound.

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