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
'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.'