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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810
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on 24 November 2008
Over the years, I've bought several copies of this book to give to my friends. Jenny Uglow, puts real flesh on what could be a very stale book. The group of intellectual and business giants who made up this group of friends were incredibly influencial at the start of the Industrial revolution.It would have been easy to fill the book with just the inventions and breakthroughs that this group made.

But what captures you is the shear warmt and respect these men had for each other. The shear curiosity and cross interests they shared is in stark contrast to many of the business and political leaders we see today who are so goal focused they are incapable of any lateral thinking. They solved a great many problems, even if the valiant efforts of at least one member to find the perfect wife did end in failure.

If you want to understand how human intellects working together can tackle immense projects this is a good place to start. In modern parlance this group would be called a Scenius, but this is too utilitarian of a concept. Jenny Uglow paints a picture of a group I would seriously like to have gone drinking with.
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on 12 February 2016
This is a briiliant exposition on the times, circumstances & activities of some of the lively-minded people such as Matthew Boulton, Josiah Wedgewood, Erasmus Darwin & James Watt (to name but a few) who contributed so much to the English & Scottish (why no Welsh??) Enlightenment in the late 19th century. "The Lunar Men" is taken from the name of the group of these people whose monthly meetings (in the English Midlands) was timed to the full moon so as to make it easier for everyone to ride home in the not-so-dark afterwards. What I found so impressive was that the Lunar Men had absolutely insatiable curiosity about all & any new knowledge that the Enlightenment produced, both for its intellectual excitement as well as for its commercial possibilities. Not only were they open to new ideas, but also to anyone (regardless of social status) who had interesting new ideas: the Lunar Men were impressively open-minded!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 December 2010
This is a truly excellent and invigorating book to read and well deserves the James Tait Black Biography Prize awarded in 2002. Jenny Uglow writes bright clear prose and imbues her style with the excitement and enthusiasm that the subject deserves. As will be well known, Uglow tells the story of the group of industrialists, doctors and naturalists who lived in the Midlands in the eighteenth century and who met each month to swap ideas, information and suggestions for future investigations, experiments and enterprises. In the absence of street lighting the brighter phases of the moon illuminated their way home after a good meal and stimulating conversation.
The book is divided into four main sections charting the rise and subsequent waning of the Lunar Group, and within each section Uglow conveniently splits the narrative into sensible subject chapters that allows her to nudge the story along on all its diverse fronts. Each chapter often deals with a radically different aspect of the various enterprises of the group, from Boulton and Watt's industrial activities in Soho, Birmingham, to the writing of Erasmus Darwin and his musings on evolution (grandfather of Charles), to the experiments and preaching of Joseph Priestly, to the brilliance and originality of the Wedgwood business as well as the activities of other less well known individuals who were satellites of the group.
Uglow has undertaken a monumental amount of research in many different fields and manages to portray the many facets of the Group's development in a lucid and accessible manner, maintaining the pace throughout the 500 or so pages of text. The book is very well presented and contains a number of fascinating printed contemporary illustrations, two colour sections and a chronology and is an absolute delight to read.
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on 17 July 2009
After reading Jenny Uglow's book on Thomas Bewick,which I could not put down! I find this book a little too detailed,but at the same time an interesting account of the times.
Jenny has the knack of putting the reader into the story.I found that I could only read small chunks at a time.Nevertheless,an amazingly researched book and one I would recommend.
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on 8 June 2017
Well worth a read if you are interested in this period of history
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on 3 August 2017
Very good condition
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on 4 March 2017
Wonderful study of the period and so informative.
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on 16 September 2002
A truly fascinating book, describing the 'club' formed by five amatuer experimenters from the Midlands in the 1760's. But not any experimenters: James Watt; Josiah Wedgewood; Joseph Priestley; Matthew Boulton; Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin. Each of these men is famous and all have had biographies written, but this book about the Lunar Society of Birmingham shows their passions and interests vividly. What a fascinating illustration of early modern history and the power of young and optimistic men to create ideas that actually did change the world around them.
The book has much detailed research presented with transparent enthusiasm for the subject. If you bear with the detail, the underlying story is a gem. Oh, and now I know what a 'lunatic' really is!
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on 12 November 2012
The Lunar Society of Birmingham was a dinner club and informal learned society of prominent Midlands industrialists, scientists, natural philosophers, artists and intellectuals who met together regularly between 1765 and 1813. The name of the society arose because the group would meet each month during the full moon when the extra light would make the journey home easier and safer.

The members of the Lunar Society were all prominent in British society. Amongst those who regularly attended the meetings were Matthew Boulton, Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), Josiah Wedgwood, James Watt and James Keir. Less regular attendees and correspondents of the Society included Sir Richard Arkwright, James Wyatt, John Smeaton, Thomas Jefferson and even Benjamin Franklin.

Over time, as prominent members grew older and died, the Society ceased to meet regularly and was officially closed in 1813.

As with all of Uglow's other biographies, The Lunar Men is a fabulous read; a vivid, detailed recreation of the time and place in which the members of the Lunar Society lived. The Lunar Society was made up of a lot of individuals and it would have been easy for their lives to jumble together in a single biography of the whole group but Uglow's great skill as a biographer and talent for hunting out an epic range of quotable materials means that the individual characters are thoroughly explored while the ties that bind them and The Lunar Men together are highlighted and detailed.

The achievements of the group of heavyweight intellectuals and businessmen who made up the Lunar Society of Birmingham are truly extraordinary, both on an individual basis and taken as a group, and Uglow fleshes out their lives and accomplishments with obvious enthusiasm.

An excellent read for those interested in British history and the scientific developments of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
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on 4 July 2010
This book is researched in great detail , full of desriptions of the science in the 18th century in a compelling and entertaining way. The individuals who made up the group came from different backgrounds and industries but were all brilliant thinkers and amateur experimenters and met to exchange ideas and discuss their current experiments. The amazing thing is that they all knew each other, bounced their ideas off each other and were in effect an 18th century think tank.Lunar Men because they met once a month at the full moon when it was safest to go a distance in their carriages and they cound find their way home. Some of the family ramifications can get a bit obscure the Darwins, the Wedgewoods, the Boultons etc but it is all part of the amazing story.
Strongly recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of science and you don't need to be a scientist to enjoy it.
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