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on 26 July 2017
This is an excellent little book. I was surprised to find the first 60% devoted to describing the lamentably slow evolution of man's acceptance and understanding of the glaciation/de-glaciation process. We then get an explanation of the small but crucial nudges applied by astronomical effects before gaining a clear understanding of deep ocean sediments, oxygen isotope analysis and other increasingly sophisticated dating methods. Finally we reach the development of ice core analysis in the last 50 years that has provided the most detailed granularity of understanding. This is predominately a history book about geological detective work. It is not the textbook in glacial landforms that I half-expected, but it is well written and I am glad to have read it.
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on 10 February 2014
Very well-written, with the key concepts clearly explained, and with no "dumbing down" of the science. The author does a splendid job of explaining isotopic ratios in sediments and ice cores, and the graphs in this section are particularly useful. The biographies of the main players in this fascinating story help the reader to engage with the geology. Excellent!
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on 6 March 2016
Great book. Helped me a lot with my studies.
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on 6 March 2014
The Ice Age delves back to the onset of Ice Age research – to the discovery of the Adams mammoth in 1799 and a landmark letter from Charles Darwin in 1873. It tells the entertaining story of climate change research from these early discoveries through to the present day, to incorporate the latest revolutions in Ice Age research.

The story demonstrates how key scientists, from across the natural sciences, have contributed to our knowledge of climate change. It has taken several centuries of dedicated research to arrive at our current understanding of the Earth system, and the book highlights what an important, interdisciplinary journey this has been. Pioneering figures such as Charles Lyell, Louis Agassiz, and William Buckland took centre stage in the great Ice Age debate as the glacial theory was devised and deliberated in the glaciated valleys of Britain and the European Alps during the 18th and 19th Centuries. During World War One, Milutin Milankovitch completed the painstaking task of calculating (using only pen and paper!) how the orbital relationships between the Earth and the Sun influence the amount of solar energy our planet receives. When he published his findings in 1941, the true gravitas of his work was not fully recognised. We had to wait several decades until the Milankovitch theory was fully credited…

We follow the Ice Age research story to the pioneering work of Nick Shackleton and colleagues on the deep ocean sediment record during the 1970s, and that of Hans Oeschger and Willi Dansgaard and their teams on the ice core record in the 1980s. It is these incredible archives that have allowed us to produce detailed insights into long-term climate change at a resolution and timescale that was not previously possible. Importantly, these findings provided the thread that could finally tie together the early work of the 18th Century scientists, with the orbital insights of Milankovitch, and with our most recent hi-tech research.

The author dedicates time to all heroes of our research field, both sung and unsung, and brings them to life as we learn some important anecdotes from their own scientific journeys. Who knew that a little-known cotton miller from Lancashire was the first to propose that floating ice may be able to transport sediments? Or that the papers containing Milankovitch’s orbital theory were almost destroyed by fire during World War Two? Or that Nick Shackleton decorated his lounge with computer printouts of the oxygen isotope curve for a celebratory party?

Alongside the narrative of these fascinating characters, the methods used by scientists through the ages are detailed with equal clarity. Jamie Woodward guides us through the entire Earth Science toolkit, from glacial geomorphology through to radiocarbon dating and oxygen isotope analysis. Information boxes also provide helpful information such as: ‘Quaternary dating methods’ and ‘What is an erratic boulder?’.

This is a truly comprehensive, highly accessible, and entertaining biography of Ice Age research: where we have come from and where we are going. It serves both as an excellent introduction for those not yet familiar with Ice Age research and as a valuable reference point for all natural scientists. It is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the excitement of scientific discovery!

From [...]
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on 8 February 2014
This is a beautifully written VSI which kept me completely engaged. It details the key discoveries that have been made by a colourful array of characters from the 19th century to the present day in understanding the Ice Age past. As someone who knew little to nothing about this subject, I found the book fascinating but also wonderfully accessible. The author has brought the subject alive with anecdotes and snippets of information about some of the main players in the Ice Age debate. It also taught me about the modern techniques used to reconstruct how the climate has changed and how these changes to the environment took place so often and rapidly. Did you know that mammoths still existed at the time the Great Pyramids were being built? The author's enthusiasm comes across wonderfully. He conveys the importance and relevance of our Ice Age history to the present. I would highly recommend this book.
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on 9 April 2014
"The Ice Age" is an excellent addition to the VSI series and does its job well, providing a short introduction to a wide range of topics particularly to do with the history of the development of ideas about the Quaternary ice age. The book uses the scientific stories of important individuals in the history of the discipline to introduce and explain key ideas to do with climate change, reconstruction of past climates, dating historical records etc. The book particularly emphasises the historical development of science in this area, to the extent that it is as much a book about the history of ice age science as about the ice age itself. The book has all the characteristics of the VSI series, including the usual compact format. The VSI books sometimes do feel as though a larger book is being physically squeezed into the smaller format, and some of the books lose a little bit of print quality in the illustrations during the process. The flaps on the card covers appeal to some people, and not to others, but they are certainly a distinctive feature of these little books!
One of the great strengths of this book is that it provides short introductions to a wide range of important topics in a convenient format for readers who want to get to grips with the basics of the subject area. In fact, it manages to go usefully beyond the basics despite the compact format.
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on 12 April 2015
Short it may be, but it still begins with an interesting and reasonably fulsome account of how the Victorians reluctantly came to accept that there had been an "Ice Age" not that long ago. It goes on to explain how discoveries throughout the 20th Century, aided by steady advances in technology, have brought us to our present state of knowledge. Setting everything in its historical context in this way, made it easier for me to grasp the science behind it. It always helps to know who made the discoveries and how they did so. I have enjoyed it, and will read it again.
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on 8 April 2014
Jamie has bought together a vast amount of material and presented it as a story of the how our understanding of glaciations has developed. The book is accessible without being simple and is especially strong in showing how long it took to satisfactorily interpret the evidence. It takes us all the way from summer field trips observing the landscape to cosmogenic isotope dating. In a time of rapid climate change it is well worth taking the time to think about how the world changed during the Quaternary Period.

The series format are attractive illustrated books that you can take anywhere. A great travel companion.
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on 24 November 2016
This book covers a lot of ground and provides a very comprehensive account of the various historical and contemporary investigations leading to today’s view of the ice age. The first six chapters detail the theories expounded by numerous enlightened characters during the 18/19th centuries, many of which challenged the prevailing view of religious fundamentalists who asserted that everything observed in nature can be explained by events described in the bible.
Whilst extensive, this historical approach does set the scene for the remaining chapters which concentrate upon the considerable scientific research undertaken during the 20th century and the means by which field data was interpreted. Individual contributions from around the world eventually led to a global picture emerging of the glacial and inter-glacial periods that have occurred and how these relate to climate change arising from natural processes rather than those allegedly caused by human activity. The text is accompanied throughout by diagrams, graphics and explanatory boxes, the latter providing detail on specific items or personalities mentioned in the general narrative.
This book is certainly value for money and is true to the VSI ethos of providing an interesting and informative account of an important period in earth history.
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on 2 April 2014
This book is a must for anyone with even the slightest interest in our planet and in the forces which shape its ever-changeing climate and landscapes
The presentation is exceptionally clear, logical and well-ordered. All my questions were anticipated and then answered as the book progressed.
A complex story is cleverly condensed into a readily understood summary for the general reader. Thoroughly absorbing.
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