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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 2 January 2014
This was recommended by my German aunt who had read the original German version and loved it. The title does not prepare you for what is an exciting and action packed book. The action being of the exploratory kind. A brilliant and also very comic read.
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on 1 May 2013
Not sure if this book was fiction, fact or a skillful blend of both but as a keen reader of biographies and of science novels I really enjoyed the story of two great scientists and their endeavours to measure the size of the earth.
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on 9 March 2013
For someone who is supposed to be a historian to make a basic error like Louis Daguerre taking photographs in 1828, 11 years before he went public with his process, is totally inexcusable. It makes you wonder how accurate the rest of it is. The prose may have lost something in its translation into English as it comes over as both turgid and stilted. I will keep reading to the end but I am not enjoying this like I expected to.
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on 4 February 2012
Quirky syle and great story. Worth reading if you have any interest in Maths/Phyics and History of either. Easy read and educational too!
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on 18 March 2013
What is amazing is that people did things like that. And made you realise that the world was so unknown.
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on 10 May 2013
I read this a six weeks or so ago and it was pretty good though a bit jumpy. Not much of it has stayed.
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on 9 October 2012
This book discusses the life and achievement of two very different men Carl Gauss and Alexander Von Humboldt. One never left germany and was a veritable mathematical genius and the other was driven to travel the world making the most amazing measurements of the physical world. I enjoyed the book as it dragged me through the lives of these two very different men . Then in the last chapters it all got a little meta physical and i thought i had droped into 'at swim two birds ' as the characters seem to inhabit each others lives. It all got a bit too much for me . Perhaps because it is desribed by some as fiction and i was treating it as biography . It's not hilarious and I certainly did not laugh out loud. Unsettling but certainly an interesting introduction to two incredible minds.
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on 17 January 2017
Most interesting in depicting two great minds and their times. Well translated into English
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on 10 March 2013
Yet another book hailed as brilliant but about as enthralling as the telephone book. The style is appalling- alternate sections describing the actions of two famous scientists in a way which I suppose is upposed to be picaresque but strikes me as heavy handed.
It has almost no psychological insights of any kind and indeed the characters of the two protagonists are hardly sketched out apart from what the author wishes to prject as a manic travel sight seeing and recording by Humboldt and an innate vsision of the world in numbers for Gauss. There are also sniggering allusions to Humboldts supposed asexuality and Gauss' priapism. I doubt if there is any historical evidence for either (or for much else in the book).

The writing is tedious with almost no dialogue and much of the text in one of three past tenses. Deadening.

And there are stupid scientific mistakes- jellyfish described as molluscs, oxygen described as being burned- which lead one to suppose that the author had a very superficial idea of the achievements of these giants of science.

Since I became an adult and was not constrained to finish poor books I have saved many hours of wasted time by discarding u nsatisfactory reads. I junked thisafter a third of the book. I just wish I had not been misled by the daft reviews I read to buy it in the first place.
Be warned
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on 23 November 2012
The author has chosen a clever and humorous style, which has produced a readable book about two prominent scientists of the past, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss. By alternating chapters about Humboldt's and Gauss' lives, the author manages to highlight differences and similarities between the two characters at the same time. The witty remarks make this book a very pleasant and enjoyable reading from the beginning until the end.
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