‘In my opinion this idea of Anaximander’s [that the Earth is suspended in space] is one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thinking.’ – Karl Popper
Carlo Rovelli is one of the world’s best known scientists. A theoretical physicist, his books have sold over two million copies around the world. In March 2023 Rovelli came to Intelligence Squared to talk about his favourite scientist, the little known Greek philosopher Anaximander, whose ideas, articulated over two millennia ago, lay the foundations for cosmology, physics, geography, meteorology, and biology. Anaximander’s legacy includes the revolutionary ideas that the earth floats in a void; that the world can be understood in natural rather than supernatural terms; that animals evolved; and that universal laws govern all phenomena. Above all, he introduced a new mode of rational thinking – including an openness to fallibility and uncertainty – that defines the modern scientific quest for knowledge.
Anaximander and the Nature of Science was Rovelli’s first book and is now being published in English for the first time. In conversation with the award-winning historian Tom Holland, he showed how Anaximander opened up a path that we are still on today: one that requires us to accept the provisional nature of our knowledge and allows us to challenge, rebel against and create new images of our world.
Award-winning historian, translator and broadcaster. He is co-presenter of Europe’s most downloaded history podcast, The Rest is History. His most recent book, Dominion, explores why Christianity is the most enduring and influential legacy of the ancient world, and his next book, due to be published in September 2023, is a portrait of the pax Romana during its heyday. He has translated Herodotus and Suetonius for Penguin Classics, and has written biographies of both Æthelflæd, Alfred’s daughter, and Æthelstan, his grandson. He has written and presented several TV documentaries, for the BBC and Channel 4, on subjects ranging from ISIS to dinosaurs. He has been described in The Times as ‘a leading English cricketer’.