The Wonder Years by Richard Holmes

The subtitle of this book is the abstract as well: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. The book consists of twelve chapters, and delineates the exploits of 8 different people or group of people–Humphry Davy and William and Carol Herschel each rate two chapters. the book begins with Joseph Banks and his journey with Captain Cook to the South Pacific. It tells stories of how he interacted with natives there, and the telling things abou this character as it related to scientific discovery. Banks presided over the scientific society in England for the entire duration of the period between the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s, so this intorduction sets the stage upon which other scientists and writers performed.

The discovery of the mysteries of the stars and moon, the invention of things that helped to save lives by pre-eminent scientists, and the increasing knowldge of chemistry and human physiology are all intermixed with the well known philosophers and writers of the time. Keats was learning about science while he was becoming the Romantic Generation’s poet (and then promptly dying at much too young an age). Wordsworth and Cooleridge were similarly invovled with the prominent scientists of their time, and the relationships they developed, and how that led to further discovery and change is well described in this wonderful book of a golden time.

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Filed under Book Review, Non-Fiction

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