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On Giants' Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries from Archimedes to DNA Paperback – 1 Sep 2004


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On Giants' Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries from Archimedes to DNA + The Book of Books: The Radical Impact of the King James Bible 1611-2011 + 12 Books That Changed The World
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (18 Feb. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340712600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340712603
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

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)


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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 8 Aug. 2004
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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By Mad Saint Uden VINE VOICE on 11 May 2014
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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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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