Russell Shorto

Breath of Thought

The New York Times, (“The Invention of Air” book review)

by Russell Shorto

January 23, 2009

The Age of Categories is dead. Strangely, it never went by that name, or any name. Also curious is the fact that its boundaries are unclear: it overlapped the Age of Enlightenment, the Age of Reason and some others, but succumbed to the atomizing atmosphere of the Information Age. Knowledge, it held, went hand in hand with nomenclature and delineation. As science developed, branches formed. Elemental to the college and university were academic departments, each of which came surrounded by high walls. A datum was deemed to fit within the confines of chemistry or sociology or the history of spoons or whatever, and that was more or less that.