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The Age of Wonder Paperback – 27 Oct 2011
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'Exuberant… Holmes suffuses his book with the joy, hope and wonder of the revolutionary era. Reading it is like a holiday in a sunny landscape, full of fascinating bypaths that lead to unexpected vistas… it succeeds inspiringly'’ John Carey, Sunday Times
‘I am a Richard Holmes addict. He is an incomparable biographer, but in The Age of Wonder, he rises to new heights and becomes the biographer not of a single figure, but of an entire unique period, when artist and scientist could share common aims and ambitions and a common language … Only Holmes, who is so deeply versed in the people and culture of eighteenth-century science, could tell their story with such verve and resonance for our own time.’ Oliver Sacks
'"The Age of Wonder" gives us… a new model for scientific exploration and poetic expression in the Romantic period. Informative and invigorating, generous and beguiling, it is, indeed, wonderful' Jenny Uglow, Guardian
'This is a book to linger over, to savour the tantalising details of the minor figures… "The Age of Wonder" allows readers to recapture the combined thrill of emerging scientific order and imaginative creativity’ Lisa Jardine, Financial Times
From the Back Cover
When Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1796, he hoped to discover Paradise. The young botanist had set sail in search of new worlds – inspired by the Romantic revolution of science that was sweeping through Britain.
In this ground-breaking group biography, award-winning author Richard Holmes charts the voyages of discovery – astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical – that made up this ‘age of wonder’. From telescopic sight to the miner’s lamp, and from the first balloon flight to African exploration, it tells the stories of great innovations, and the inspired individuals behind them.
Breathtaking in its originality and storytelling energy, The Age of Wonder is a radical vision of the meeting places of science and art, and an extraordinary evocation of an era of exploration, discovery and wonder.
‘Witty, intellectually dazzling and wholly gripping’ Richard Mabey, Guardian, Books of the YearSee all Product description
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Richard Holmes's book shows us this world, where science and the arts were not yet distinct but complementary. A world where people were both fascinated, repelled and terrified of these discoveries. A world which he portrays brilliantly. I'm not a scientist, but I understood all the science, and I found myself wanting to know more. The stars of this book, the men and women making all these discoveries, are drawn with affection that is not blinded by admiration, and in every case, the narrative ensures that the reader is aware of the wider context, the wider implications. It's a very close world in many ways, a world where it sometimes seems as if everyone corresponds with everyone else, or is a member of the same club, or is best friends with, or married to, another star.
This is a book that anyone interested in the age where the Englightenment gave way to the Romantics. It is a book whose successor I would love to read, though it seems it's not yet written. But hopefully soon. It's a book I'd highly recommend.
Overall pretty interesting and readable, combining loads of different styles of discovery including
- always fatal African explorations
- the hot air ballooning crazes
- astronomy and evolving ideas about the universe
- chemistry, electricity and addictions to nitrous oxide
In summary it's very readable if not spell binding and you'll learn something new about the period when we changed our ideas about everything.
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