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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biography of a polymath, 28 Nov 2008
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This review is from: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Paperback)
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.

Recommended.
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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
This review is from: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Paperback)
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.

After finishing the book, engrossed in fascination which had turned to admiration, I wrote an account of my impressions of Young in the back of the book, and I think it will be useful to reproduce it here:

"A genius, a polymath and a master of all fields which attracted his attention, Young held an endless intellect and boundless aptitude rarely found in those of our species, and not one bit was he smitten with the terrible egoism which claims so many of us, but was an eternally humble and modest figure; a Gentleman and a Genius."

Suffice to say, I would recommend the book highly!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Now here is a book to stimulate the mind. What a man!! What didn't Thomas Young know anything about., 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Paperback)
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 review is from: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Paperback)
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
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thedodger197 (Ockley, Surrey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (Paperback)
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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The Last Man Who Knew Everything
The Last Man Who Knew Everything by Andrew Robinson (Paperback - 1 Oct 2007)
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