The Last Man Who Knew Everything Paperback – 1 Oct 2007
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"Robinson's brisk and engaging biography succeeds in rescuing Young from the "dilettante" charge. His thumbnail sketches of the scientific debates that his hero altered – whether on nautical astronomy, theories of light or the Rosetta Stone – have a clarity and focus Young himself would cheer." (The Independent)
"This is a fascinating book" (BBC History Magazine)
"Thomas Young has long awaited a first-class biography, and Andrew Robinson has provided one. It is the best biography I have read for many years." (Sir Patrick Moore - Astronomer and Presenter of The Sky at Night)See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
I am only halfway through this fascinating book. I truly believe this man must have walked the the earth before, Many times!