The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

by William Kamkwamba
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What is the role of magic in this book?

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In his memoir about becoming a scientist, William Kamkwamba makes a division between “magic” and “science.” This division can be analyzed as a difference in worldviews. Kamkwamba reveals that believing in science replaced his belief in magic. As he learned about concepts such as empiricism, his belief in the importance...

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In his memoir about becoming a scientist, William Kamkwamba makes a division between “magic” and “science.” This division can be analyzed as a difference in worldviews. Kamkwamba reveals that believing in science replaced his belief in magic. As he learned about concepts such as empiricism, his belief in the importance of logic and evidence grew stronger. Finally, he replaced his earlier ideas about the mystical or supernatural forces that govern the universe with his faith in rationalism.

The author’s earlier faith in magic is associated in general with his family’s and community’s traditions and specifically with his father’s teachings. The boy learned that magic was the central and powerful force that made unexplained things happen in the universe. From William’s perspective, the two worldviews were incompatible, so he had to set aside his traditional beliefs in order to understand science. Some of the challenges he faced included overcoming his fellow community members’ reluctance to embrace scientific principles. While the author addresses some aspects of the negative effects of colonialism in denigrating Indigenous systems of knowledge, overall he derived positive values from his academic education, much of which was self-taught. He came to embrace science as greater than magic, which he concluded was not real.

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