"Ingenious Pursuits" follows the scientific community of Britain through the second half of the 1600's, with a little spillover into the early 1700's. Jardine has pulled off quite a feat here: she weaves together the interconnected stories of medicine, physics, astronomy, cartography, anatomy, chemistry, biology and botany, along with a clear look at the society in which the key figures moved.
Most histories of this period that deal with science at all fall into a couple of easily defined categories. They may take a single thread and follow it: there are many accounts of the discovery of calculus, for example, that discuss Fermat, Descartes, Leibniz and Newton. These books shed only a tangential light on the social background and say little or nothing about the state of the rest of science. Other books may neglect the details of the science in order to convey the society; or may provide biographies of individual figures. Jardine points out one of the dangers in this last approach: Robert Boyle's first biographer decided to focus primarily on his contributions to chemistry, and actually destroyed much source material related to other interests of his.
Jardine's approach here is to give a chapter to each of several fields, and trace the history of the field over fifty or sixty years. The first chapter, for example, covers astronomy, including the identification of Halley's comet and the founding of the Greenwich Observatory. Once the players are introduced, the reader finds them recurring over and over again in subsequent chapters; this is what unifies the book. By the end of the book the effect is that Hooke, Boyle, Newton, Halley, Flamsteed, Oldenburg and the rest are so familiar that the stories are strongly coloured by the personalities and politics involved, adding another interesting layer to an already fascinating history.
The Royal Society, which was founded in 1660, was of course a key player in all of this, and Jardine gives a good sense of both the gentlemanly biasses of the group (and the times) and the political complications of its work. For example, Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, despite having an able mind and a great interest in science, was restricted by her gender from scientific life outside her salon; and it was also clear that only "gentlemen" could really participate. On the political side, Oldenburg, the first secretary of the R.S., got in trouble because of his voluminous correspondence with scientists on the continent in countries with which England was periodically at war.
Jardine includes a very useful short chapter of capsule biographies of key figures at the end of the book. One thing she does not include that would have been useful is a chronology, either in timeline form or just as a list. This would be handy as a skeleton for the information in the book. The only other omission I regret is that, as another reviewer here has noted, there is not always a great deal of detail about the science itself. This is a result of Jardine's focus: she talks about the airpump experiments, for example, rather than how the airpump itself worked. These are minor shortcomings, however, and I strongly recommend the book.