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Last Man Who Knew Everything [Paperback]

Andrew Robinson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
No-one has given the extraordinary Thomas Young the all-round examination he so richly deserves until now. Celebrated biographer Andrew Robinson tells the rich and engrossing story of a modest hero who solved mystery after mystery in the face of ridicule and rejection, and cared less about what others thought of him than for the joys of an unbridled pursuit of knowledge.

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Last Man Who Knew Everything + The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell + The Strangest Man: The Life of Paul Dirac
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851685529
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851685523
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'Meticulously researched, superbly written, richly illustrated and imbued with an enthusiasm for its subject that does not flag even when analysing some of Young's most abstruse studies. This book should be cherished by all who value originality, breadth of knowledge and intellectual passion.' --The New Scientist.

'Thomas Young has long awaited a first-class biography, and Andrew Robinson has provided one. It is the best biography I have read for many years.' --Sir Patrick Moore, Astronomer and Presenter of The Sky at Night..

'Robinson's success in condensing his almost limitless scholarship for a general reader is commendable.' --FT Magazine.

About the Author

Andrew Robinson is a King's Scholar of Eton College and holds degrees from Oxford University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is the author of more than fifteen books, including The Story of Measurement (2007), and four biographies: Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity; The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris; Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye; and Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man (written with Krishna Dutta). From 1994-2006, he was literary editor of The Times Higher Education Supplement. He is now a visiting fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and a full-time writer.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biography of a polymath 28 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this book really interesting. It is a biography of Thomas Young, famous for both his modulus of elasticity, and for the double slit experiment which established the wave behaviour of light.

Young was a both a polymath and an autodidact, and his achievements are much wider than just the two items named after him. He was the first person to correctly explain how the eye worked, and he was instrumental in the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone.

Andrew Robinson's book deals not only with Young's triumphs, but also with the frustrations of being a polymath on the edge of a time when specialisation was on its way in. Previously, scientists were gentlemen of means who had the time and the money to dabble in any number of fields that interested them.

After Young, scientific research became a field for paid professionals with narrow specialities. Polymaths tended to be good at a large number of things, but not the absolute best in any of them. Of course, their ability to bring together disparate fields also enabled them to found new branches of science and the arts, but such achievements were usually not recognised until after their lifetime.

Robinson has produced a very readable book about someone whose achievements have been overshadowed by those who came later.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gentleman and a Genius. 16 Jan 2010
By Tom
Holding a great interest in the 18th and early 19th century, and also a long fascination with extraordinary individuals, it was with great joy that I stumbled upon this book, and with great expectation that I read it. I can say very honestly that I wasn't disappointed.

The fascinating character of Young forms an instant solid basis for any biography, but it is my belief that in his writing, Andrew Robinson has done more than work solely upon this. Where Young's achievements and works are discussed, the assumption of little prior specialist knowledge and providence of it (in areas such as Optics, Physics, Boat Construction and Egyptology) is highly informative, whilst not in any way patronising.

The amount of research which has gone into the book is evident through the author's fluent understandings of both the historical and social contexts, and the abstracts which he provides where needed of relevant areas in optics and other fascinating, but specialist areas.

In this way, the biography does not fail to deliver a fascinating personal depiction of Young as an actual man (in spite of the difficulties often presented by Young's modesty and oft pursuit of anonymity), particularly in the earlier chapters, as well as a charismatic portrayal of his works and achievements, presented in all the context which is required for them to be fully appreciated.
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An outstanding Polymath. A prodigious linguist. A gifted Physician and a veritable walking encyclopedia to boot!!
I am only halfway through this fascinating book. I truly believe this man must have walked the the earth before, Many times!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and informative read 29 May 2009
This book as you might guess from my title was very entertaining and informative. However, I found it to be less a biography of Young, and more a list and discussion of his achievements. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the sheer range of Young's achievements and the depth of his knowledge is incredible and humbling.

Overall, this is a short biography which packs in a lot of information, but I would like to have learned a little more about the man himself.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 5 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this. A genius recognised in his own time but since forgotten. First translater of hieroglyphics, and proved alternate theory of light, among many other achievements too numerous to list.
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