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The Age Of Wonder: How The Romantic Generation Discovered The Beauty And Terror Of Science (2009)

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (2009)

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3.98 of 5 Votes: 1
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0007149522 (ISBN13: 9780007149520)

About book The Age Of Wonder: How The Romantic Generation Discovered The Beauty And Terror Of Science (2009)

The iPhone is a wondrous thing. People rave about it, but would anyone consider writing a poem about it? That's very unlikely. Poetry still exists, but it has been almost entirely subsumed into musical lyrics given to us by the relative few who write the songs we hear. Lyrics can speak to the heart but they do not come from one's own heart. The Age of Wonder continually cites poetry as it was a natural way for people of the time to question and address feeling toward an exciting, but bewildering and disconcerting world of discoveries. Poetry put wonder to words.In ancient times, religion provided an authority that made people passive, accepting life as something to be endured. Then came the Enlightenment and the period this book is about, when anyone and everyone could explore and discover the world, even if only by looking at a flower, because things could be seen in a new way. In modern times, passivity has returned. Most people haven't a clue about the cutting edge of science/math and the production cornucopia presents us with new things effortlessly each day. Our minds are not aroused by mystery, as there are virtually no mysteries that someone, somewhere cannot explain - no need for us to try. You want an answer? No need to pause and consider, Google it.Richard Holmes gives us a masterful account of the period centered on the end of the 18th century by taking the remarkable life of Joseph Banks to frame it. Banks, who became the president of the Royal Society (dedicated to the promotion of scientific exploration), led a life of investigation of the natural world. Most significantly, as a young man he traveled to Tahiti with Captain Cook and lived the life of fully expressed and uninhibited sexual passion that could not have been more in contrast to English life. The impact upon him was so great that it took some time after his return to Europe for him to be able to readjust. A marriage that was considered a done deal before he had left was called off. The shock of his personal experience is the perfect introduction to the shocks of science that were to come to society as a whole. Even the term "scientist" had yet to be coined.William Herschel (1738-1822), a man who, all by himself, was able to craft telescopes that surpassed all others of the time is the next to be brought to our attention. His dedication to surveying the universe with the assistance of his sister, Catherine, through countless frigid English winter nights, brought revelations such as the planet Uranus, and informed speculations on his part that impressively foreshadow our current knowledge about the size and shape of our own galaxy and the distribution of matter in space.Then, we meet Humphry Davy (1778-1829) who was to chemistry what Herschel was to astronomy - a man who without hesitation attacked a subject to follow wherever his discoveries led. Davy's life is the most poignant account of the book, the most fascinating personality in it. The Age of Wonder would be well worth reading if Davy had been the only subject.Banks, Herschel and Davy were all swept up in and driven by wonder. Each day was greeted with expectation. As mentioned, in keeping with the times, poetry, either their own or that of the great poets (Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, etc.) is continually brought into play as humanity struggled to make sense of, to integrate, the new science with the old, received wisdom.The status of women and the relationship of races are fully explored as within the three lives they come into play. Richard Holmes proves to us how any age is an inexhaustible mine of treasures, if only the author knows how to expose them. This book is kind of the ultimate departure from my personal comfort zone: nearly 500 pages on the history of western science juxtaposed with poetry. Richard Holmes is an amazing researcher and writer, he really brings the age to life and I loved the beautiful color art inserts. The first section was very straightforward, about the young explorer Joseph Banks and his discoveries in Tahiti; in the next we meet a young astronomist that Banks discovered, named William Herschel and also his sister-assistant Caroline. Then with each chapter and introduction to subsequent scientists the reader is keeping track of more and more complexity, collegial scientists and poets, their discoveries and published work, their travels, and family relations! Throughout it all - anthropology, cosmology, flight, mesmerism, chemistry - the unifying thread is the history of the Royal Society of London scientists, led for the most part by Joseph Banks. My favorite quote is when somebody asks "What's the use of a (hot air) balloon?" and Benjamin Franklin responds, "What's the use of a newborn baby?"

Do You like book The Age Of Wonder: How The Romantic Generation Discovered The Beauty And Terror Of Science (2009)?

Lots of interesting information, but way too much poetry for me!

I wanted to like this more, but I found it very, very tedious.

Too much irrelevant information even for me to take.

Interesting biographies of early scientists.

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