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The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 Paperback – 4 Sep 2003

44 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571216102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571216109
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘A colourful and hugely entertaining read.’ -- Focus

‘A magnificently accomplished and enjoyable book.’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘An absolute wonder of a book.’ -- Economist

‘An astonishing feat of research, inquiry and fact-collecting . . . The Lunar Men is a considerable historical achievement.’ -- Literary Review

‘An irresistible book, rich as a Christmas pudding in its detail.’ -- Spectator

‘Jenny Uglow escapes into the past with the skill of a master storyteller in this beautifully written book.’ -- Birmingham Post

‘This is an exhilarating book, filled with wonders. Jenny Uglow is the most perfect historian imaginable.’ -- The Times

Book Description

The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow is a vivid group portrait that brings to life the Lunar Society of Birmingham, a group of eighteenth-century amateur experimenters led by the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael Layden on 24 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Over the years, I've bought several copies of this book to give to my friends. Jenny Uglow, puts real flesh on what could be a very stale book. The group of intellectual and business giants who made up this group of friends were incredibly influencial at the start of the Industrial revolution.It would have been easy to fill the book with just the inventions and breakthroughs that this group made.

But what captures you is the shear warmt and respect these men had for each other. The shear curiosity and cross interests they shared is in stark contrast to many of the business and political leaders we see today who are so goal focused they are incapable of any lateral thinking. They solved a great many problems, even if the valiant efforts of at least one member to find the perfect wife did end in failure.

If you want to understand how human intellects working together can tackle immense projects this is a good place to start. In modern parlance this group would be called a Scenius, but this is too utilitarian of a concept. Jenny Uglow paints a picture of a group I would seriously like to have gone drinking with.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By RariB on 4 July 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is researched in great detail , full of desriptions of the science in the 18th century in a compelling and entertaining way. The individuals who made up the group came from different backgrounds and industries but were all brilliant thinkers and amateur experimenters and met to exchange ideas and discuss their current experiments. The amazing thing is that they all knew each other, bounced their ideas off each other and were in effect an 18th century think tank.Lunar Men because they met once a month at the full moon when it was safest to go a distance in their carriages and they cound find their way home. Some of the family ramifications can get a bit obscure the Darwins, the Wedgewoods, the Boultons etc but it is all part of the amazing story.
Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of science and you don't need to be a scientist to enjoy it.
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88 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 16 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
A truly fascinating book, describing the 'club' formed by five amatuer experimenters from the Midlands in the 1760's. But not any experimenters: James Watt; Josiah Wedgewood; Joseph Priestley; Matthew Boulton; Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin. Each of these men is famous and all have had biographies written, but this book about the Lunar Society of Birmingham shows their passions and interests vividly. What a fascinating illustration of early modern history and the power of young and optimistic men to create ideas that actually did change the world around them.
The book has much detailed research presented with transparent enthusiasm for the subject. If you bear with the detail, the underlying story is a gem. Oh, and now I know what a 'lunatic' really is!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a truly excellent and invigorating book to read and well deserves the James Tait Black Biography Prize awarded in 2002. Jenny Uglow writes bright clear prose and imbues her style with the excitement and enthusiasm that the subject deserves. As will be well known, Uglow tells the story of the group of industrialists, doctors and naturalists who lived in the Midlands in the eighteenth century and who met each month to swap ideas, information and suggestions for future investigations, experiments and enterprises. In the absence of street lighting the brighter phases of the moon illuminated their way home after a good meal and stimulating conversation.
The book is divided into four main sections charting the rise and subsequent waning of the Lunar Group, and within each section Uglow conveniently splits the narrative into sensible subject chapters that allows her to nudge the story along on all its diverse fronts. Each chapter often deals with a radically different aspect of the various enterprises of the group, from Boulton and Watt's industrial activities in Soho, Birmingham, to the writing of Erasmus Darwin and his musings on evolution (grandfather of Charles), to the experiments and preaching of Joseph Priestly, to the brilliance and originality of the Wedgwood business as well as the activities of other less well known individuals who were satellites of the group.
Uglow has undertaken a monumental amount of research in many different fields and manages to portray the many facets of the Group's development in a lucid and accessible manner, maintaining the pace throughout the 500 or so pages of text. The book is very well presented and contains a number of fascinating printed contemporary illustrations, two colour sections and a chronology and is an absolute delight to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Philip S. Woodford on 17 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading Jenny Uglow's book on Thomas Bewick,which I could not put down! I find this book a little too detailed,but at the same time an interesting account of the times.
Jenny has the knack of putting the reader into the story.I found that I could only read small chunks at a time.Nevertheless,an amazingly researched book and one I would recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Erin Britton on 12 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
The Lunar Society of Birmingham was a dinner club and informal learned society of prominent Midlands industrialists, scientists, natural philosophers, artists and intellectuals who met together regularly between 1765 and 1813. The name of the society arose because the group would meet each month during the full moon when the extra light would make the journey home easier and safer.

The members of the Lunar Society were all prominent in British society. Amongst those who regularly attended the meetings were Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt and James Keir. Less regular attendees and correspondents of the Society included Sir Richard Arkwright, James Wyatt, John Smeaton, Thomas Jefferson and even Benjamin Franklin.

Over time, as prominent members grew older and died, the Society ceased to meet regularly and was officially closed in 1813.

As with all of Uglow's other biographies, The Lunar Men is a fabulous read; a vivid, detailed recreation of the time and place in which the members of the Lunar Society lived. The Lunar Society was made up of a lot of individuals and it would have been easy for their lives to jumble together in a single biography of the whole group but Uglow's great skill as a biographer and talent for hunting out an epic range of quotable materials means that the individual characters are thoroughly explored while the ties that bind them and The Lunar Men together are highlighted and detailed.

The achievements of the group of heavyweight intellectuals and businessmen who made up the Lunar Society of Birmingham are truly extraordinary, both on an individual basis and taken as a group, and Uglow fleshes out their lives and accomplishments with obvious enthusiasm.

An excellent read for those interested in British history and the scientific developments of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
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