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The Abacus and the Cross

by Nancy Marie Brown

Science writer Brown tells the life story of Gerbert d'Aurillac, better known as Pope Sylvester II, the pope of the year 1000. She dwells on his mathematical and scientific ability but does not ignore the political intrigue that often put him out of favor with kings and earlier popes. Her explanation of his scientific knowledge corrects many long held myths, such as that everyone believed the world would end in AD 1000 and that everyone thought the earth was flat. However, she creates new ones in the process. The reader is left to think that, after Gerbert's brief light, the "Dark Ages" closed in again and no more science was accomplished until the "Renaissance. " Too much of her story is told in scientific "either/or" terms when history is much more "and/also. " Her effort is laudable but her background understanding incomplete. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc. , Portland, OR (booknews. com)

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

by Nancy Marie Brown

Five hundred years before Columbus, a Viking woman named Gudrid sailed off the edge of the known world. She landed in the New World and lived there for three years, giving birth to a baby before sailing home. Or so the Icelandic sagas say. Even after archaeologists found a Viking longhouse in Newfoundland, no one believed that the details of Gudrid's story were true. Then, in 2001, a team of scientists discovered what may have been this pioneering woman's last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland, just where the sagas suggested it could be. Joining scientists experimenting with cutting-edge technology and the latest archaeological techniques, and tracing Gudrid's steps on land and in the sagas, Nancy Marie Brown reconstructs a life that spanned-and expanded-the bounds of the then-known world. She also sheds new light on the society that gave rise to a woman even more extraordinary than legend has painted her and illuminates the reasons for its collapse. Includes references, notes, sources.

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