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97 of 102 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

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good in parts
I found parts of this book very interesting but there are also boring parts which I skipped over. But overall worth the price..
Published 16 months ago by Richard Comber


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97 of 102 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.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 3 April 2009
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D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
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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!
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent read, 29 Mar 2009
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G. van Vuuren (London, England) - See all my reviews
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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.
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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
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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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genesis of Modern Science, 17 Nov 2010
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A time of gentle enlightenment, 14 Aug 2011
By 
D. S. Sample (Turnipshire England) - See all my reviews
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This book explains the major scientific discoveries of the romantic period ,the formation of the 'Royal Society' & the realisation that science was useful to mankind . The books follows the lives of important pioneers & their dedication to their subject . Good to read before R.Dawkins [Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good in parts, 1 May 2013
By 
Richard Comber (Rownhams, Southampton, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (Kindle Edition)
I found parts of this book very interesting but there are also boring parts which I skipped over. But overall worth the price..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start but..., 10 Mar 2013
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the age of wonder, 27 Jan 2011
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I was delighted to receive this book as a Christmas present. I put it on my wish list after hearing about it on Radio 4 Start The Week. I have not had a chance to read it as yet but I know it contains info. on this really interesting period of history. Although the site sid it would not arrive before Christmas, IT DID!!! Good on you Amazon
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The age of wonder, 13 Sep 2010
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.
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