Sunday, September 27, 2009

I just finished The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes.

The Age of Wonder covers what Holmes calls the second scientific revolution in Britain. Specifically he covers the careers of Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Humphrey Davies as well as the craze for ballooning and the early careers of Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage and John Herschel.

One of the main points of the book seems to be to put this new crop of scientists (a term that was only created towards the end of this period) in context and show how art and science were more closely aligned. Most of the scientists above wrote poetry of one form or another and were friends with some of the great Romantic poets like Keats, Shelley, Byron, and Coleridge, who also wrote poetry that used scientific themes and inspiration.

The topic is an interesting one, but the books main strength is the writing. The author has a strong, clear style that brings out the various personalities and keeps the narrative interesting and informative without getting bogged down in details.

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