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On Giants' Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries from Archimedes to DNA [Hardcover]

Melvyn Bragg
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Mar 1998
The story of science unfolds in this account of the lives and extraordinary discoveries of 12 of its greatest figures - Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Faraday, Darwin, Poincare, Freud, Einstein, Marie Curie and Crick and Watson. Exploring their impact and legacy with leading scientists of today, including Stephen Jay Gould, Oliver Sacks, Lewis Wolpert, Susan Greenfield, Roger Penrose and Richard Dawkins, Melvyn Bragg illuminates the core issues of science past and present, and seeks to convey the excitement and importance of the scientific past.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (5 Mar 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340712597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340712597
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 13.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,369,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

So many of us are blessed--or at least affected--by the fruits of science, yet how many of us really understand how we got them? Scientific creativity, like all other kinds, is a product of its times, but we can learn much from looking at the lives of its greatest practitioners; as a sizable side benefit, these lives are often tremendously entertaining. Author and BBC radio host Melvyn Bragg understands this well, and invited many of the great modern interpreters of science to discuss the lives and work of 12 greats from Archimedes to Watson and Crick, and published the cream in On Giants' Shoulders. These are no dry transcripts, though; Bragg has a genius for selecting the most intriguing quotes and selections from both his guests and his subjects and weaving them into his own engrossing narrative. His many novels have tightened up his prose so well that he can make even a discussion of the genesis of relativity a page-turner. He couldn't have invented better material, either: Newton's notorious snobbery, Darwin's almost-naïve sincerity and Lavoisier's turbulent life and untimely death make for compelling stories indeed (one almost wonders how they had time to change the world). His guests, including luminaries such as Lewis Wolpert, Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks and Roger Penrose, consistently cut to the heart of their subjects' importance and tie it all up neatly in the last chapter: "Where Are We Now?" An important question, of course, and one that can be better answered from On Giants' Shoulders. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

'Enchanting ... if anything will unlock the Aladdin's cave of science to a general readership it is Melvyn Bragg's approach' (Lisa Jardine in The Times)

A fascinating exploration forthe lay reader into the leagacy of 12 of the greatest figures in science form Archimedes to Galileo an dNewton to Einstein, Crick and Watson with the help of leading contemporary scientists..

Publishing News 30 .10 .98



What a wonderful way to approach a difficult subject. Take 12 of the world's greatest scientists from Archimedes to Watson and then not only outline their scientific achievements but also discuss the implications with our present greatest... The consequence is a potted history and debate on the past and its influence on the present, resulting an enlightened view of science. Brilliant.

News Extra 30. 10. 98



...Bragg plays the part of the interested, intelligent layman, asking the questions on behalf of the reader, and since this is what he really is, the device works perfectly.

The Good Book Guide 11. 98



'It's hard to see how this volume, based on a Radio 4 series, could be improved on as an introduction to science. A dozen scientific greats, from Archimedes to Einstein, are dazzlingly illuminated by successors working in the same fields...Sparks fly between contributors on Darwin. This is science told with passion'

Independent on Saturday 13.2.99



'OGS is an informative, spirited guide to the history of science and the individuals who have shaped it, from Archimedes to Crick and Watson. Bragg encourages debate between leading scientists on the significance of science, its place in society through the ages and the impact of individual genius. Brief chronologies and a bibliography complement the concise, yet thorough, chapters...'

The Observer 21.3.99



'A stunningly simple idea...a populist, highly entertaining study of science past, present and future. The approach is genuinely invigorating and the contents are all set out in delicioius and highly digestible morsels. Recommended reading'

The Scotsman 6.3.99



'a Clever and illuminating approach...he rounds up the best contemporary science writers and challenges them to explain the importance of the "greats"'

Venue (Bristol) March 99



'A dozen scientific greats, from Archimedes to Einstein, are dazzlingly illuminated by contemporary experts in the same field.'

'Sparks fly between contributors on Darwin. This is science told with passion.'

(unknown)

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
Archimedes is so clever that sometimes I think that if you want an example of somebody brought from outer space it would be Archimedes. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique study of giants 8 Aug 2004
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Bragg demonstrates how a "dabbler" in science can lead one more deeply into the research realm. Using his generalist background, he shows how anyone can appreciate what science can achieve and what it means to us all. A feeling of "being left out piqued his interest and he decided to seek out what he had missed. His technique is one any of us can follow - his interest was piqued by the growing number of works for the general reader. He didn't expect to become an "expert player", but through these works could at least be "at the game".
His study of fifteen key figures in science becomes a summation of what he garnered through reading and interviews. Bragg's long journalism career gave him an entry key and many insights in dealing with the "giants" and their interpreters. Having discovered several in this role, he has formulated a survey that will be valuable to many. Using a technique combining the interview with the works of good writers, he's created a readable, cogent overview of what science is and what it means. From Archimedes through Newton, Darwin and Curie to Watson and Crick you are given a variety of views of the key figures. The importance of each is stated clearly, mixed with what is known of their characters and background.
In his conclusion, titled "Where Are We Now?", Bragg makes an excellent summary of the impact of these seminal thinkers. As an observer, he claims to have produced a "map" of scientific thinking. The map is incomplete, but evokes an image of science as a "human exercise intent on examining the meaning and purpose as much as the structure of life today". It's a fine summary conclusion to his outstanding effort to help bring science to anyone wishing to learn its values. The future, his interviewees stress, will be one of further, deeper discoveries.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging and well-structured 3 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very absorbing read, written as a radio show so there are lots of interview excerpts, making it pacy and putting the biographical info into context. Excellent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good start. 11 May 2014
By Mad Saint Uden VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The basic premise of this book is that great developments and progress comes from the ideas and work of those that came before. That nothing is ever complete as you will one day become someone elses 'giant'. A basic idea that I'd not really verbalised until I read this book. As such I was pleased to have read it as it gave me something to think about.
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3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book for who hate sciences 18 April 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Bragg have written on great scientists' works and lives in a novel fashion. This book is very readable, and easy to get some rough ideas. But do not expect any serious matters in this books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration to Scientists & Science Students Alike 21 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
On Giants' Shoulders is a tribute to twelve scientists who, in the last two thousand five hundred years, changed the world both as we perceive it and as we live in it. Their minds, their lives, their struggles, their colleagues and rivals are explored and unravelled by some of today's leading scientists. Taken together, their stories and discoveries constitute a guide to the history of science.
A bestseller in England, this book combines engaging portraits of these figures with accessible discussions of their most important discoveries. Those profiled are Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Faraday, Darwin, Poincaré, Freud, Curie, Einstein, Francis Crick and James Watson. Their stories are enhanced by insights provided by interviews with some of today's leading scientists, including Paul Davies, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, John Gribbin, Sir Roger Penrose, Sir Martin Rees and Oliver Sacks.
Based on interviews broadcast over British radio, this book differs from the radio series in the ampler amount of material contained, as it was possible to include more material from the original transcripts, which had been mercilessly pruned for the thirty-minute radio programmes.
Melvyn Bragg is an acclaimed journalist and the host of the popular BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week. He is also the author of seventeen novels and five works of non-fiction, including biographies of Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier.
Reviewed by Azlan Adnan. Formerly Business Development Manager with KPMG, Azlan is currently Managing Partner of Azlan & Koh Knowledge and Professional Management Group, an education and management consulting practice based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He holds a Master's degree in International Business and Management.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars British scientists talk about their heroes 20 Aug 2003
By Erika Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a collection of write-ups of BBC radio show programs about the heroes of British scientists. Each chapter considers a prominent scientist of the past, such as Archimedes, and then presents a synopsis of interviews and discussions with modern-day British academic scientists about the featured scientist of the past. Through the interviews, we gain an understanding of the opinions of the modern-day scientists concerning their academic heroes, mixed in with some of the facts concerning their lives and discoveries. The book is thick with opinions and philosophy compared to the amount of factual information it contains about the featured scientists. If you are interested in what modern British scientists have to say about some famous scientists of the past, then this book is for you. But if you're looking for a book where you can learn something about the famous scientists themselves or a summary of their discoveries, you should look elsewhere.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Giants Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries 15 Jun 2000
By Anita L Ondrusek - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In a search for science biographies to add to our college's science library collection, I first purchased On Giants' Shoulders based upon a favorable review from Choice (Jan. 2000) that characterized the book as ". . . a well-written volume that can be understood by anyone." Science biographies can be very technical or very dry and, consequently, not for the non-specialist. Also, scholarly biographies that cover a collection of scientists usually follow a theme (such as women in science or great minds in biology), so I was taken with the idea of a chronology of scientific discoveries through a biographical approach. Since its arrival in the library, I have read the book twice. Its appeal lies in its conversational style (the text is partly based on radio interviews with famous scientists) and recurrent themes addressed from many different points of view - a technique reminiscent of the book The Ghost in the Atom (Cambridge University Press, 1986). One reviewer refers to the book's style as "gossip" and likens the presentation of events to a soap opera. Why not? Science is a world full of intrigue and scientists should be portrayed as having a human side as well as an intellectual side. The book is a wonderful way to introduce young people to the realm of science, and I have ordered personal copies for children of my friends and relatives.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERSONALITY OF SCIENTISTS COME TO LIFE! 19 Aug 2000
By Azlan Adnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
On Giants' Shoulders is a tribute to twelve scientists who, in the last two thousand five hundred years, changed the world both as we perceive it and as we live in it. Their minds, their lives, their struggles, their colleagues and rivals are explored and unravelled by some of today's leading scientists. Taken together, their stories and discoveries constitute a guide to the history of science.
A bestseller in England, this book combines engaging portraits of these figures with accessible discussions of their most important discoveries. Those profiled are Archimedes, Galileo, Newton, Lavoisier, Faraday, Darwin, Poincaré, Freud, Curie, Einstein, Francis Crick and James Watson. Their stories are enhanced by insights provided by interviews with some of today's leading scientists, including Paul Davies, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, John Gribbin, Sir Roger Penrose, Sir Martin Rees and Oliver Sacks.
Based on interviews broadcast over British radio, this book differs from the radio series in the ampler amount of material contained, as it was possible to include more material from the original transcripts, which had been mercilessly pruned for the thirty-minute radio programmes.
Melvyn Bragg is an acclaimed journalist and the host of the popular BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week. He is also the author of seventeen novels and five works of non-fiction, including biographies of Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique study of giants 19 July 2003
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Bragg demonstrates how a "dabbler" in science can lead one more deeply into the research realm. Using his generalist background, he shows how anyone can appreciate what science can achieve and what it means to us all. A feeling of "being left out piqued his interest and he decided to seek out what he had missed. His technique is one any of us can follow - his interest was piqued by the growing number of works for the general reader. He didn't expect to become an "expert player", but through these works could at least be "at the game".
His study of fifteen key figures in science becomes a summation of what he garnered through reading and interviews. Bragg's long journalism career gave him an entry key and many insights in dealing with the "giants" and their interpreters. Having discovered several in this role, he has formulated a survey that will be valuable to many. Using a technique combining the interview with the works of good writers, he's created a readable, cogent overview of what science is and what it means. From Archimedes through Newton, Darwin and Curie to Watson and Crick you are given a variety of views of the key figures. The importance of each is stated clearly, mixed with what is known of their characters and background.
In his conclusion, titled "Where Are We Now?", Bragg makes an excellent summary of the impact of these seminal thinkers. As an observer, he claims to have produced a "map" of scientific thinking. The map is incomplete, but evokes an image of science as a "human exercise intent on examining the meaning and purpose as much as the structure of life today". It's a fine summary conclusion to his outstanding effort to help bring science to anyone wishing to learn its values. The future, his interviewees stress, will be one of further, deeper discoveries. His "giants" are in reality the ideas they developed, not in any way the scientists themselves. From Newton's irascibility to Darwin's diffidence, all these figures retain a strongly variant human identity. If nothing else, this book imparts the idea that science belongs to us all and can be furthered by anyone interested enough to undertake investigating unanswered questions. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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