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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `In 350 years, the Royal Society has had a mere 8,200 members, but what a roll call of names.'
In 2010, the Royal Society celebrated its 350th birthday. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660, when a group of twelve men met at Gresham College after a lecture by Christopher Wren, then the Gresham Professor of Astronomy. This group of men, who included Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray, and William, Viscount Brouncker, decided to found `a...
Published on 15 Aug 2011 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a disjointed collecton
I agree with nom de plume. This is a disjointed collection with no obvious focus and surprisingly little interest in the history of the Society. In reading Bryson's introduction and its exaggerated claims for the importance of English science in the early modern period, I thought its lack of balance might prove to be a bit frustrating, but it turns out that the...
Published on 31 Oct 2011 by nomdeguerre


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `In 350 years, the Royal Society has had a mere 8,200 members, but what a roll call of names.', 15 Aug 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
In 2010, the Royal Society celebrated its 350th birthday. Its official foundation date is 28 November 1660, when a group of twelve men met at Gresham College after a lecture by Christopher Wren, then the Gresham Professor of Astronomy. This group of men, who included Robert Boyle, John Wilkins, Sir Robert Moray, and William, Viscount Brouncker, decided to found `a Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning'.

The Society was to meet weekly to witness experiments and discuss scientific topics. The first Curator of Experiments was Robert Hooke. Sir Robert Moray told Charles II of this venture, and the Society obtained its first Royal Charter in 1662. In the second Royal Charter of 1663 the Society is referred to as 'The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge'.

`Science is an unending quest: as its frontiers advance, new mysteries come into focus just beyond those frontiers.'

This collection of essays celebrates the existence and achievements of the Royal Society. More than 80 Nobel Laureates have been members of the Royal Society, and its members have included Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford and Francis Crick. Current fellows include Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking.

The essays have been written by an eclectic group of authors - including novelists (Margaret Atwood, Maggie Gee, and Neal Stephenson), historians (Georgina Ferry, Richard Holmes and James Gleick) and scientists (Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones and Sir Martin Rees). Other writers include Gregory Benford, Henry Petroski and Margaret Wertheim.

`Royal Society of London describes a location, not an allegiance.'

My favourite essays in this collection were those by: Richard Holmes (`A new age of flight: Joseph Banks goes ballooning'); Henry Petroski (`Images of Progress: Conferences of Engineers'); Ian Stewart (`Behind the Scenes: the hidden mathematics that rules the world'); and Gregory Benford (`Time: The Winged Chariot').

`Mathematics is simply the catalogue of all possible patterns.'

I enjoyed reading this book and I'd recommend reading it slowly, enjoying each essay before moving on to the next. It isn't necessary to understand all of the science ( I certainly don't) in order to appreciate the achievements: the history is fascinating in its own right.

`Sometimes complexity can be simple too.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The need for sunglasses, 19 Feb 2010
For someone as unscientific as me I found on the first reading that I was 'blinded by science. It is a beautifully produced book with wonderful illustrations. It is quite staggering to see how various subjects have developed in what is,after all, only a short space of time. I believe it was Newton who claimed to have received his vision by standing on the shoulders of giants. One can scarcely imagine what vision will be granted to those who stand one the shoulders of to-day's giants. It was good to struggle with the more obscure articles although the use of a mental telescope would have been useful. I would encourage others to read this book and even, if like me, they found hard going at times, just to hold the book and enjoy its quality is sufficient to provide the impetus to begin.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book,, 31 Aug 2010
By 
Paul Clappison (Brisbane, Queensland, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a fascinating book discussing developments in science since the formation of The Royal Society in 1662. It has an introduction (by Bill Bryson) , a conclusion by Martin Rees and 20 contributed chapters. For me the most interesting contributors were:-
10 Henry Petroski Images of Progress: Conferences of Engineers
13 Philip Ball Making Stuff: From Bacon to Bakelite
15 Ian Stewart Behind the Scenes: The Hidden Mathematics that Rules our World
19 Stephen H Schneider Confidence Consensus and the Uncertainty Cops: Tackling
Risk Management in Climate

and particularly the Conclusion by Martin Rees in which he looks 50 years ahead.

Some of the other chapters are heavy going.
I don't think the typeface chosen is particularly good and I found the footnotes very difficult to read.
Still overall a very good book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a disjointed collecton, 31 Oct 2011
I agree with nom de plume. This is a disjointed collection with no obvious focus and surprisingly little interest in the history of the Society. In reading Bryson's introduction and its exaggerated claims for the importance of English science in the early modern period, I thought its lack of balance might prove to be a bit frustrating, but it turns out that the frustrating part is the lack of engagement with the history of the Society or its place in the broader context of scientific pursuit. Very little ties the contributions together, which means that the value of the collection is derived solely from the strength of the individual articles. Given the roll call of distinguished names, this is not necessarily a weakness, but there is big difference between Richard Dawkins writing on Darwin and Neal Stephenson trying to make sense of Leibniz (which in itself is a measure of the volume: what is the point of an extended attempt to explain Leibniz's metaphysics in a work devoted to the Royal Society?). In short, a very handsome book with great pictures and lively prose, but lacking order and direction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased, 29 Aug 2010
The book is a collection of scientific writings. One or two are very complex but the whole picture, derived from the book, is excellent. The authors clearly know their subject and express it in lucid terms. An excellent read, difficult to put down even though it is a thick and heavy book. Even good for bedtime reading but will keep you awake.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful on many levels, 12 Mar 2010
By 
P. Robertshaw (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Though it may not be at the forefront of everyone's thoughts, it is hard to overestimate the influence and impact of both the individual members of the Royal Society and the society as a whole has had on our modern lives. Through the work of the 22 contributing authors, this book attempts to shine a light on some of these areas of influence and impact and, in my opinion, succeeds quite successfully.

Covering the 350 years of the Royal society, with topics ranging from the place of science to influence politics and policy when dealing with matters of uncertainty (parallels with the present global warming debates), through to the amount of science and mathematics that is hidden behind the scenes in almost everything we do today. The scope of the book is understandably large.

Echoing the views of the earlier reviewers, some of the submissions are easy to read and appreciate, with some of the others, for me, requiring a little more persistence. Though, all of them are well worth the effort involved.

With its wide range of subjects, I believe the book offers a great introduction to a fascinating and integral part of the history of our modern day lives. Further to that, by crafting the book from the submissions of a good selection of prominent figures and writers, I have also gained some insight into authors who I had not come across before but shall be reading more of in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the book I thought, but fantastic anyway!, 2 Nov 2013
By 
Ruby S (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
I received this book as a gift and was looking forward to reading about the history of the Royal Society, but wondered why it might need 500 pages! Well, it isn't really a history of the Society but only gives brief references to the group. However, the essays, each written by a different contributor, mostly writers and scientists, are fantastic in their breadth of subjects. I couldn't stop turning the pages and it is the quickest 500-page read of my life! So not the book I would have bought if I'd have thumbed through in a bookshop but I'm so glad to have read something a little different to my usual reading list. Well worth a read for anyone interested in any of the sciences.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, 31 Mar 2013
By 
Mr. L. MCGOWAN (surrey) - See all my reviews
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I really liked this book and have given a copy to my son's father in law. The sort of book I like to keep coming back to.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Royal Society:The Founding of modern science, 2 April 2010
By 
Serghiou Const (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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The book was written to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society founded in 1660 and in the process marking the beginning of modern science. The momentous event was precipitated by a lecture given to a dozen people by a 28-year-old astronomer, Christopher Wren, who would later design St Paul's cathedral. These gentlemen were followers of Sir Francis Bacon, a 17th-century statesman and philosopher who argued that knowledge could be gained by testing ideas through experiments. Inspired by the lecture and Bacon, they determined to meet every week to discuss scientific matters and to witness experiments conducted by different members of the group. Two years later Charles II granted the Society its royal charter. The establishment of the Royal Society marked the invention of processes on which modern science rests, including scientific writing and peer review. During its illustrious history the Royal Society counted among its members such stellar scientists as Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell and Lord Ernest Rutherford while Sir Isaac Newton served as its President;the election of Leibniz, a Hanoverian, as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1673 established its cosmopolitan character since its inception.

The book introduced and edited by Bill Bryson, comprise twenty-one essays written by distinguished personalities-men and women-of science but also letters reflecting on science and technology since the foundation of the Royal Society. The essays in their commanding majority are truly excellent.

Early in the book Margaret Wertheim provides a profound insight on the challenge that modern science which we identify with the Royal Society posed to existing worldviews and systems of meaning. This is immediately followed by an equally profound essay by Neal Stephenson relating to one of the sharpest intellectual disputes in the early days of the Royal Society between the two giants Newton and Leibniz. I do not allude here to their well known feud on the fatherhood of Calculus. But on a most profound debate on the nature of physical reality. Newton, of course, was well aware that his model led to a deterministic world posing a problem on free will. Lebniz in his theory of monads, primary entities interacting with all other similar entities anticipates contemporary thinking that matter is a secondary manifestation of the primary physical reality. Richard Dawkins' essay on Darwinian evolution is as always beautifully written and incisive. Georgina Ferry's essay on crystallography is written with sensitivity and among other relates woman recognition in science. One of the heroins, Dorothy Hodgin, was not only elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS 1947) but was awarded the 1964 Nobel prize for Chemistry, the first (and so far the only) British woman to win a science Nobel. Ian Stewart convincingly reveals the all permeating nature of Mathematics underpinning science and technology. Stephen H. Schneider, Nobel prize laureate and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relates among other how Bayenesian probability aids in tackling risk management in climate change. The concluding essay is appropriately written by Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society who reminds us that for Bacon, science was driven by two imperatives:the search for enlightenment, and the 'relief of man's estate'. But additionally and importantly articulates his own position that contemporary scientists have a special responsibility. They should as 'citizen scientists', be prepared to engage in public debate and discussion. And this is particuarly important because challenges of the twenty-first century are more complex and intractable than those of the twentieth century.

The book is richly illustrated drawing on the arhives of the Royal Socitey. Photographs include pages with the signatures of the founding members of the Royal Society but also of the 2001 and 2002 members some of whom are contributors in the book;photographs of Isaac Newton death mask;and photographs of original editions of monumental publications such as Newton's Principia, Darwin's on the Origin of Species and Einstein's Uber die spezialle und die allgemeine relativitast theorie (On the Special and Ceneral Theory of Relativity).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting although different from initial expections, 28 May 2013
By 
Burl (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I originally purchased this book for something to read while travelling on holiday. However, it soon became clear that it wasn't really suitable for that purpose, It was more like a science text book than a brief history of the Royal Society. It delved into areas such as super-string theory in TOE (The theory of everything). I actually finished reading it after I came home. Overall though, I was still pleased with my purchase.
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