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How the Irish and Scots Saved Western Civilization

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the heritage of Western Civilization could have been lost to the barbarians and the dark ages. However, the holy men and women who resided in Ireland preserved and copied a treasury of Western books and preserved the literature, philosophy, and science of the Roman, Greek, Jewish, and Christian writers. With the return of stability to Europe these copies became the sources for scholars to spread the learning that shaped the medieval mind. By the 18th century the Gaelic cousins of these Irish (the Scots) created the Scottish Enlightenment. Their innovations in philosophy, education, engineering, industry, commerce, architecture, urban planning, medicine and government resulted in a transformation and reordering of human knowledge for the modern nations. Our American democratic system and constitution can be traced back to this Scottish Enlightenment. We owe our system of universal education and the Encyclopedia Britannica to the Scottish innovators. They were also responsible for many of the technological advances that fueled the Industrial Age.

RALPH ALLEN is a Professor Emeritus University of Virginia (Departments of Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, and Public Health Sciences), Associate Vice President of Research (UVA), Director of Forensic Science programs for FBI-UVA National Academy, Chairman of Archaeological Chemistry Division of ACS, Graduate of University of Wisconsin (Madison) and Cornell College.

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