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Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution [Paperback]

Lisa Jardine
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 2000
Today the 'two cultures' - art and science - have come to be treated as fundamentally opposed, their aims incompatible. Scientific research is castigated for its inhumane methods & lack of moral responsibility, while art is treated as an enduring source of essential guidance to society's spiritual well-being. Lisa Jardine makes clear in this remarkable book that this is a distinction which is both artificial & historically inaccurate. The intellectual revolution of the 17th & early 18th eighteenth centuries was the single most formative event in Western history, bringing together the humanities & natural sciences in an unprecedented ferment of conceptual & practical creativity. She documents the forces for change which brought the human & natural sciences together & gave them shape. Each of her series of key components - among them, precise time measurement, enhanced astronomical observation, selective animal & plant breeding & technological advances in navigation - lays a crucial part of the foundations for modern thought. INGENIOUS PURSUITS brilliantly illuminates the practice of science, its impact on the emerging modern world & its continuing relevance to society.

Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (5 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034911305X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349113050
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 590,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
AT THE END of the seventeenth century, a century and a half before the glare of electric street-lighting, the skies above London were dark at night. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I enjoyed Professor Jardine's 'Worldly Goods' immensely, and ordered her new book immediately after reading Paul Johnson's praise for it in the Literary Review magazine. It's a fascinating account of the collaboration and ambition involved in scientific progress, taking us through all sorts of developments and obsessions, from microscopes and time-pieces to comets and navigation.
Lisa Jardine has a knack for lucidly presenting the scientific basis of these discoveries, whilst never forgetting the human characters (such as the ever-present entepreneur Hooke) who populated the 17th century scientific world. As she guides us through the Scientific Revolution, Jardine shows us that the separation of art and science is far from clear-cut, and that commercial interests have always been inextricably linked to the drive for progress.
A brilliant and thought-provoking read, 'Ingenious Pursuits' also draws parallels with modern developments such as the discovery of DNA and the birth of Dolly the sheep. It is also blessed with a wealth of beautifully-reproduced illustrations, including a large number of colour plates, which help to make it a joy to read - and a perfect gift.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good for beginners in the field ..... 15 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This isn't a bad book for beginners in the history of science. The narrative is well told, in a lively style, and ought to provoke more interest in this fascinating topic. However anybody with a basic knowledge of this field might end up feeling a little short changed. Many of the significant characters Jardine looks at are given less examination than they might deserve, and important developments are sometimes given only cursory attention. For example, her early assertion that a range of characters including John Flamsteed, Hevelius Robert Hooke and even Kepler are "largely unknown" will not sit easily with many historians of science - and perhaps this indicates the book's target audience. Also some of Jardine's attempts to draw parallels between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries can lead to some questionable conclusions. Were the British-French research efforts into blood transfusions in the 1600's really "The precursor to the US-USSR space race" as is claimed, for example? All in all, a good introduction, well illustrated and with a satisfactory bibliography and list of suggested further reading. But neither a work of huge originality or particularly noteworthy perception.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable book 25 Jan 2000
By A Customer
Lisa Jardine writes with such verve and clarity. She is a beacon of light in the sombre world of science history. I enjoyed every page of Ingenious Pursuits and came away wanting more. Her thesis about the false intellectual dichotomy between art and science is a compelling one, and cleverly made.
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