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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons for these times
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...
Published on 24 Nov. 2008 by Michael Layden

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Both too long AND missing vital information
Unfortunately this is rather a boring read.
It manages to be in general far too lengthy, whilst at the same time omitting highly pertinent details of key developments of "The Lunar Men".

In my opinion the reason it is too lengthy (nearly 600 pages) is a) all 12 of the Lunar men she chooses to describe are treated equally, which gives far too many pages to...
Published 23 months ago by Mr. Brian R. Dougal


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons for these times, 24 Nov. 2008
By 
Michael Layden (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (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
5.0 out of 5 stars The fascinating lunar group, 4 July 2010
This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (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
5.0 out of 5 stars lunatics they were not?, 16 Sept. 2002
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
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Delight to Read, 2 Dec. 2010
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future by Jenny Uglow, 17 July 2009
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This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lunar Men, 12 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Both too long AND missing vital information, 17 April 2013
By 
Mr. Brian R. Dougal (Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (Paperback)
Unfortunately this is rather a boring read.
It manages to be in general far too lengthy, whilst at the same time omitting highly pertinent details of key developments of "The Lunar Men".

In my opinion the reason it is too lengthy (nearly 600 pages) is a) all 12 of the Lunar men she chooses to describe are treated equally, which gives far too many pages to the minor players. And b) too many trivial details are included, as if the author had discovered something, so she had to include it. i.e. in general, too little prioritisation.

The details missing are numerous relevant technical points and, given the length of the book, relevant coverage of the opponents of the midlands based Lunar group (mainly those in London, the north east and Cornwall).
Clearly this is not a book attempting to describe the science and engineering in any sort of specialist way, but necessary details relevant to understanding what was going on are missing.
An example - she notes the extra carrying capacity offered by the advent of canals but fails to note the key difference for Wedgwood - stopping the huge breakage rate of pottery carried by pack-horses over un-made roads, vs smooth canalboat travel.

Shortened, this could have been an excellent overview for non-specialist readers. Or, at its current length it needs more technical detail, but less about the bit-players.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book about 'a constellation of extraordinary individuals'., 30 Nov. 2012
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (Paperback)
The Lunar Men certainly were 'a constellation of extraordinary individuals', as Uglow herself concludes in her epilogue to this weighty tome.

It was reading widely about Charles 'Origin' Darwin that lead, almost inexorably, to an interest in the Lunar group, with Stott's book Darwin's Barnacle sealing the deal, via the chapter on Charles' grandfather Erasmus. Erasmus figures large in Uglow's book too - something of a Titan, both literally and figuratively; a man whose interests (and physical girth) seemed to know no bounds! - and learning more about him is fascinating.

But then there are also the many other 'Lunatics': Boulton, Wedgewood, Watt, Priestley, Edgeworth, Whitehurst, Keir, Day and several others (some very much Lunar Men, others just passing through their orbit, like American polymath Benjamin Franklin, or Joseph Wright the painter, aka Wright of Derby': whilst not strictly a Lunar Man as such, Wright, like Franklin, figures prominently in the book). Some of these names will doubtless be familiar to those with a little general knowledge, Wedgewood for his pottery, Watt for his work with steam engines, Priestley for his politics as much his science, and so on. But the lesser known figures are often equally fascinating, from the fussy-in-love Rousseauian romantic and reactionary Day, to the perhaps a little hapless Withering, who gets into a scientific spat with Erasmus Darwin that reminds me a little of that between Dawkins and Gould in our own times.

One of the many fascinating things about the many subjects covered in this book is how they all mesh together at a particular point in time: coming out of enlightenment thinking, and based (for the most part) far north of London, they represent a growing blurring of old feudal social distinctions and an increased independence (of both mind and pocket), whilst their voracious quest for knowledge connects them to both emerging ideals of political and personal liberty, and the birth of industrialisation and commercialisation, which would simultaneously lift levels of material wealth and increase 'alienation' and the dependence and insecurity of the working population.

Largely pro-liberty, despite the ties of the patronage system many of them cooperated in and profited by, they initially embraced the French revolution, but as enclosures bit deep into the land and Britain reacted against the threat of revolutionary and then Napoleonic Europe, various aspects of the Lunar Men's interests fared unevenly: Wedgewood thrived, advancing industry through increased chemical and practical knowledge, and (like Boulton) bringing higher levels of finish to ever wider markets, whilst Boulton and Watt's steam power quite literally boomed, in every possible respect. And of course Erasmus' interests in evolution would be picked up and developed by Charles, with epoch-shattering revolutionary effect.

But Day's reactionary politics and Priestley's libertarianism (his fate in relation to the riots and 'anti Jacobin' unrest is rather sad) would both succumb to the strange mix of the pragmatic advances of capitalist industrialism (what Day, along with the likes of William Blake - Uglow uses the lunar theme to connect the Lunar Men's reaching 'so eagerly for the moon' with Blake's engraving mocking scientific hubris [the famous 'I want, I want' with a ladder reaching to the moon] - feared as the pollution of our Eden by 'dark satanic mills') with the great reversals to emancipatory progress which had looked imminent (Keir's progressive optimism re the 'diffusion of a general knowledge ... [a] characteristic feature of the present age' contrasting with the anti-intellectualism of Burke, who saw science as 'smeared with blood ... arrogant and uncaring') resulting, at more prosaic levels, in setbacks to British liberal reform.

And all this occurs at a specific moment, at a time when the gentleman amateur was perhaps more common as a leader in science than the professional or academic, and when events in Europe would have immense impact here in the British Isles, both strengthening our own imperial position - although it looked terrible insecure at the time, as America fought for and won its independence, causing the axis of our power base to shift from west (America and the west-indies) to East (India and the East-Indies) - and setting back the course of reforming liberal politics by many decades. All of which developments continue to inform our culture life even now. From our pride in Darwin to our troubled and alienated relationship with Europe.

Many of those in this story were also proto-capitalists, as well as industrialists, making (and sometimes losing) their fortunes speculating with their investments. Erasmus Darwin had to earn his own living, as a doctor, and his desire to publish much of his scientific work anonymously and disguised as poetry, was influenced by a need to secure his reputation and private practice. His involvement as an investor in canal building, whose effect on speeding the pulse of industrialising Britain was akin to the effect the steam engine would shortly redouble, was what ultimately meant that two generations later Charles Darwin could work on evolution as a gentleman of leisure. Fascinating!

Vast in size and coverage (so big - like Erasmus at his dinner table, which had to be modified with a semi-circular cutaway - I couldn't always fit it into my reading rest), this is a very interesting, informative and enjoyable book. Whilst I kind of wish it had been a bit leaner, given how much Uglow covers, it's understandable that it should be a bit of a mammoth.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return to "o" Level history, 28 Sept. 2003
By 
Ian Thumwood "ian17577" (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 (Paperback)
Having studied the Industrial Revolution atboth O and A level in the 1980's, I have fascinated to read this book about many of the major players in this important part of British History. Jenny Uglow has succeeded to writing a very readable book that brings such characters to life at Boulton,Watt, Wedgewood, Priestly, etc although the polymath Erasmus Darwin emerges as the most impressive. Anyone who studied this era of history at school will find much to enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a colourful depiction of a group of inventors, 23 Nov. 2011
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The Lunar Man achieves an enjoyable balance between giving historical insights and providing a vivid description of this important time for technological and cultural development in Britain. Uglow does a great job in portraying the different characters involved in the lunar circle (eg Erasmus Darwin, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood), tying in important historical events, social circumstances and reflecting on the wonderfully interdisciplinary flow between the arts and sciences at the time.
As a student of 18th/19th century literature, the book has given me a good overview of the era while also introducing the layperson to the basics of technological inventions at the time. For example, Uglow conveys to the reader the excitement of first endeavours of larger scale canal building near Manchester. She takes us right there and enables the reader to see the enormous impact this development has had on Britain's economy since it served, to some extent, as a model for the building of railway lines. With the canals built, potters were then able to ship their goods, without having as many breakages, to different cities. Uglow describes the process of creating china ware in Britain, the fashion hype around it, the industry involved. So all in all, a colourful map is drawn of creative thinkers and inventors, their relationships, their technological inventions, failures, renewed attempts - portrayed with an admiration for their energy and eccentricity, and a recognition of their often ruthless drive for progress.

So far I have recommended this book to civil/electrical engineers, those interested in technology and British history, as well as to students of cultural studies: The Lunar Men bring them all together.
Reading the hardback edition adds pleasure to the reading process - with its thick pages, nice paper and lavish illustrations (the latter would be in the paperback edition as well). Uglow's writing style is vivd, yet discerning and her monograph is well-divided into chapters. Enjoy!
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The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810
The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810 by Jenny Uglow (Paperback - 4 Sept. 2003)
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