Customer Reviews


80 Reviews
5 star:
 (60)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly compelling history of science in the Enlightenment
I'm not a scientist. I have only a passing interest in the history of science. However, I'm c250 pages in and I am gripped. Holmes has the narrative skill of a great novelist, conjuring worlds and characters out of what could have so easily have been dry facts. Starting with Joseph Banks' experiences in Tahiti (he travelled as part of Cook's expedition), Holmes takes the...
Published on 17 Dec. 2008 by Henry Turner

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start but...
I had high hopes for this book and the first 6 of the 10 chapters were fascinating. I learnt all about people whose names we've all heard of but perhaps know very little about - Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Mungo Park and Humphrey Davy - in an entertaining, narrative way full of anecdotes and interesting facts. When you see how their lives begin to overlap and...
Published on 10 Mar. 2013 by Tara S


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly compelling history of science in the Enlightenment, 17 Dec. 2008
By 
Henry Turner (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
I'm not a scientist. I have only a passing interest in the history of science. However, I'm c250 pages in and I am gripped. Holmes has the narrative skill of a great novelist, conjuring worlds and characters out of what could have so easily have been dry facts. Starting with Joseph Banks' experiences in Tahiti (he travelled as part of Cook's expedition), Holmes takes the reader into the mindset of the European encountering new, unknown worlds. In particular - in this case - their complex responses to the Tahitians' more open attitudes towards sex and sexuality. And that is one of the greatest strengths of the book. Whether it's dealing with Herschel and the discovery or Uranus or Davy and his lamp, The Age of Wonder is as much about the late 18th/early 19th century mind as it is about the science and scientists. Indeed, the book sees science through the eyes of the romantic movement (and a Britain in love with romanticism), so Coleridge, Keats and the Shelleys become major players in the narrative. Despite the focus on Herschel and Davy and their particular discoveries, the reader is compellingly immersed in a far wider exploration of ideas and culture in this period. The widespread excitement that scientific discovery generated is palpable and you can't help feeling that we have lost something very important in a world where science and the arts are so often perceived as near polar opposites. Wholeheartedly recommended to anyone in search of a rattling good read this Christmas, especially those who don't think that science is their pigeon.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 3 April 2009
By 
D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I was given this as a Christmas present. Richard Holmes crafts a fascinating story that brings fully to life the period covered (late 18th and early 19th centuries). I was hooked from the first page as the exploits, discoveries and tribulations of Joseph Banks, William and Caroline Herschel, Mungo Park, Humphry Davy and a cast of other leading 'scientists' were woven together in a wonderful tapestry (no pun intended). Richard Holmes' prose is fluent and captivating. This is one book that really lives up to the blurb on the cover. Read it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent read, 29 Mar. 2009
By 
G. van Vuuren (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
There are plenty books written on modern science, exploration (geographical and scientific), fledgling scientific breakthroughs, romantic poetry, human psychology and biographies of major scientific protagonists (with all their vanities and petty jealousies, as well as their soft, fuzzy side) - but all this in ONE book? It's a masterpiece, beautifully written, wittily observed and carefully footnoted. Every page a delight.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start but..., 10 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
I had high hopes for this book and the first 6 of the 10 chapters were fascinating. I learnt all about people whose names we've all heard of but perhaps know very little about - Joseph Banks, William Herschel, Mungo Park and Humphrey Davy - in an entertaining, narrative way full of anecdotes and interesting facts. When you see how their lives begin to overlap and connect it adds another fascinating dimension. By chapter 7, however, the book has begun to lose its way and almost reads like another book. It becomes weighed down with poetic references, literary history and the vitalism debate that neither engage nor entertain. It picks up again towards the end with the likes of Farraday and Babbage so I ended it on a positive note. It's worth reading definitely, but be prepared for a bit of page-flicking in the middle.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of Modern Science, 17 Nov. 2010
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
For those interested in how we know what we know, this is a fascinating book. The extraordinary fact that until the first manned balloons took off, no one had ever seen the world from above, and that was relatively recently. The speed with which discoveries occurred is remarkable. The certainty that the protagonists had that they would make new discoveries is also surprising. Although the stories are certainly interesting, the style is sometimes a little repetitive - phrases are reused and I sometimes found myself thinking I had already read a passage when in fact it was simply restating something said a few lines, paragraphs or pages before. All the same, very readable and a strong narrative - something I always look for in history.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cutting-edge science, royalty and best-selling authors inter-relate, 8 Aug. 2010
By 
Lost John (Devon, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
Reading this book reminded me of Cyril Connolly's adage that inside every fat man is a thin one wildly signalling to be let out. There is much good writing here, about an exciting period for the emergence of modern science, populated by many fascinating characters. And it appears to be based on a lot of original research. But what a pity that one of the first requirements of modern popular histories is that they should extend to 500 pages. Poetry by Sir Humphrey Davy? For the most part we could do without it. Similarly, in this context, that of Byron and Shelley; some dreary speculation on the lines of "as he did such and such a thing, he must have been thinking...."; the author's evangelistic promotion of atheism; and the inclusion, especially in the early chapters, of any available sexual titillation, much of which is in any case based only on speculation.

But the book is worth reading. The Age of Wonder, well named, opens with Joseph Banks' stay on Tahiti in 1769. He was a member of an expedition sponsored by the Royal Society and led by Captain James Cook, the primary objective of which was to observe the transit of Venus across the sun. Banks returned to England with a huge number of botanical and other specimens, and much carefully recorded anthropological and other information, founding his reputation as a popular, if essentially untrained and amateur scientist (throughout his lifetime scientists were known as philosophers). He was in due course rewarded with the Presidency of the Royal Society and it is through his Presidency that the link is made with much of the other material in this book. He and the Society did much to encourage and facilitate the work of the young Humphrey Davy, who eventually succeeded Banks to the Presidency. Davy died in 1829 and it is with his death that The Age of Wonder as a book essentially ends. Many related developments were still to come - in particular, Michael Faraday had yet to produce the work on electricity and electromagnetism for which he is best known - and Holmes rightly anticipates much that at the time lay in the future.

Besides Banks, Davy, his famous miner's lamp and other discoveries, the book majors on William Hershel, his development of telescopes and discovery of Uranus; also sister Caroline and her independent discovery of eight comets; Central African explorer Mungo Park; and the early development of hot air and hydrogen ballooning. Many other late eighteenth and early nineteenth century players also feature. For some it might be possible to discover as much, if not more, from other sources, but this book - which is exceptionally well indexed and has a useful Cast List as an Appendix - would still be worth checking as a route to discovering how individuals interrelated - Sir Humphrey Davy to Sir Walter Scott, for example, or Joseph Banks to King George III, who in turn was not averse to popping round to a garden party at the home of William and Caroline Herschel. It was indeed an Age of Wonder.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Collection of Characters, 2 Aug. 2010
By 
Clare Topping (Northamptonshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
I had coveted this book for some time, thinking that it could almost be considered a follow-on from, if a more scientific (rather than industrial) version of Jenny Uglow's Lunar Men. However, although this was what I expected, it was not what I got.

I had ups and downs with this book. I found the first chapter covering Joseph Banks trip Tahiti a little difficult to get into and wondered if I had added the wrong book to my wish list. However, I think this is just me, having read about Banks as a Botanist, I guess I expected more botany and less anthropology. Once I got part way through the second chapter, focussing on William and Caroline Herschel I was hooked. I discovered about explorers and scientists (although that term was apparently a bit of a divisive subject) that I knew little or nothing about - Mungo Park, the various balloonists, even William Herschel was merely a name prior to this book.

The author skillfully weaves the characters in and out of the chapters. The aforementioned Joseph Banks appears in and out as president of the Royal Society, appropriately feted as a scientific talent spotter and mentor. Then we move onto the life of Humphrey Davy, and, to a lesser extent Michael Faraday, with guest appearances from the likes of Babbage and Mary Somerville. Also interwoven are the great poets and writers of the day; Shelley, Byron and Davy's great friend, Coleridge.

My only complaint from the book is that there is perhaps too much page room given to the poets and, indeed the poetry of, for example, Davy. It seems that there is so much of interest with the scientific figures and the legacy they left that it felt as though the stories of the scientists were sacrificed for poetry - perhaps that is just the miserable scientist in me!

Whether you are interested in science, Georgian history or the poets, buy this book - there is something in here for all tastes. You won't regret your purchase and you will no doubt find something new and interesting in there.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The age of wonder, 13 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
This is a magnificent book, this man could literally - and I use the word carefully - write about how paint dries and make the physics of the process and the historical context of paint formulae interesting. I could not put this book down, and it is not even my first choice of subject matter - the science of the Romantic Age and its relationship to the arts was just something I thought I ought to know more about, and I selected the book expecting it to be moderately hard going. Instead of that, it was pure pleasure from beginning to end.
For benefit of other readers and at risk of being picky, on p.156 he confuses the battle of Aboukir, 1799, with the battle of Aboukir Bay (better known as the battle of the Nile), 01 August 1798.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect antidote for non-scientists, 16 Feb. 2010
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
There is no shortage of positive reviews of this book, on the contrary, and yet I felt compelled to add another. In part that's because I tend to write a review of whatever book I read, good or bad, but in this case I absolutely had to set down in writing how lovely a book this is. In school I never really liked sciences: mathematics was a bore, chemistry as dull as can be, and what the point of physics was I never really grasped (which may be due to the fact that we were given exercises such as 'If a man jumps from a 122m high steeple at what speed will he hit the ground?', the answer to which always seemed irrelevant to me). I was interested in history, literature and languages, and it seemed quite logical to me that no two people could be further apart than a scientist and a poet.

Not so! Richard Holmes has succeeded where a dozen science teachers failed: to awaken an interest, I might even say an enthusiasm, for science in me. I was absolutely enthralled by the wonderful story he so expertly and fluently tells, of this glorious period where there was still so much uncharted territory, and entire continents were just black spots on a map. The lives of people like Sir Joseph Banks, William and Caroline Herschel, Humphry Davy and Mungo Park are as intoxicating reading matter as any adventure story, and it's all true too! In a sense one discovers that these great men of science are on the one hand humans just like you or me, with their shortcomings and defaults, but on the other hand different, if only in the singleminded (not to say obsessive) way in which they pursue their quest with extraordinary perseverance. It's all very intoxicating stuff to read about, I wish there were more history books that achieved the same high standard.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Wonder - science history with a diference, 28 Dec. 2009
By 
This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Paperback)
"The Age of Wonder" is a continuous collection of mini-biographies of men such as Joseph Banks, Humphrey Davy, Herschel, Faraday ... scientists all - though they would be called that for many years - and yet also part of the literary fabric of the time, which the author, Richard Holmes, does not neglect. Not surprising since his previous books were about people like Coleridge and Shelly.

Dangerous experiments, long voyages, unrealised glimpses of great scientific truths, social triumph, literary celebration .... For example, we all know that Herschel discovered Uranus, but to be told that he also constructed his own reflector telescopes, painstakingly (and painfully) grinding his own mirrors adds a much needed human dimension to the history of scientific discovery.

At 500-odd pages including indexes etc it is a book to read in shortish bursts, and is organised to allow this. Thoroughly recommended, and on my shelves joins "The Fellowship" by John Gribbin (about the early history of the Royal Society), "The Map that Changed the World" by Simon Winchester (on William Smith and the first geological map of the country) and "Scurvy, by Stephen R Brown, about "the greatest medical mystery of the age of sail".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
£10.68
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews