The Glass Bathyscaphe
asks what was the crucial difference between oriental and occidental societies in the late middle ages and Renaissance that meant that those in the west developed modern scientific method and those in the east did not? What was the single most important substance behind the startling technological advances of the last two hundred years? Some might be tempted to answer, "Iron and Steel", to the second question but, according to MacFarlane and Martin, in their unusual book, the answer to both questions should be, "Glass". Through its use in telescopes and microscopes, barometers, thermometers and scientific instruments, medical and photographic equipment, glass made us feel differently about ourselves and the world.
The danger in a book like this, which concentrates on one substance and its cultural significance, is that the authors could have sounded like monomaniacs, ascribing just about every advance in human knowledge to the wonders of glass. MacFarlane and Martin are aware of this danger and they acknowledge the enormous complexity of the forces that created the modern world. Their argument is subtle and sophisticated but they are in no doubt that glass has never been given the central place it deserves. Ironically, given its subject, The Glass Bathyscaphe has a slightly opaque title (how many know, without consulting a dictionary, what a bathyscaphe is?) but, for a short book, it is a very challenging one, asking us to look anew at the whole history of science and technology.--Nick Rennison
'A stimulating read that will make you think about the material world in a new way' - Julian Henderson, New Scientist 'Fascinating...a riveting story...the authors' explanations are wide-ranging and ingenious ...presented with energy and insight. By piecing together "the shattered history of this extraordinary substance" Macfarlane and Martin have made a valuable contribution to the wider social history of technology' - Richard Hamblyn, Sunday Times
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.