Where does curiosity stop and science begin? When is a gentleman's collection of curios a museum? What makes a navigational aid a scientific instrument?
Questions of this sort attempt to separate science out from the rest of life--and Lisa Jardine has no time for them. Her latest book is instead a meticulous and sympathetic re-imagination of the lives of early scientists in the late 17th century. It conjures up a curious and engaging image of buccaneering science, serving its own more abstract instincts by supplying vital research to industry and the military.
Jardine shows that science is a normal commercial activity, wedded inextricably to the pursuit of profit and military advantage. Our modern idea of it as an objective, pure and even spiritual exercise--and our disappointment and anger when scientists turn out to have paymasters we do not like--is the product of a very modern habit of putting science on a pedestal.
While these topical issues inform Ingenious Pursuits, the book stays very much in its period. It is richly illustrated throughout, offering the reader a rare chance to acquire the feel and fascination of doing early science. But it is the individual stories that entice most--the founder of the British Museum collection whose fortune was founded on "medicinal" milk chocolate; Hooke and Wren's scheme to fashion out of a London rebuilt after the Great Fire a great laboratory, stocked with monumental telescopes.
The heroes and heroines of Jardine's story are engaged, business-like entrepreneurs, not white- coated supermen, and, Jardine assures us, the same is true today. How strange that we forgot it. --Simon Ings
Lisa Jardine has the knack of making science easy to understand. Her book brilliantly recaptures the excitement felt by seventeenth century scientists at the new world of objects they were finding and theorising. (Roy Porter
A fascinating book, the best introduction to date for the first scientists; for this is history written not backwards, in the quest of the origins of modern science, but with a blind eye to the future... (David Wooton
Lisa Jardine is a new star on England's literary and historical scene. (LITERARY REVIEW
INGENIOUS PURSUITS is an eminently readable history of the intellectual revolution of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that through it's author's spirited style well convey the excitement of those who were party to it. (TLS