One of the joys of having a moderately successful history of science blog and being omnipresent in cyberspace as a pedantic historian of science devoted to promoting the discipline is that generous professional writers send me copies of their books to peruse and hopefully review. Unfortunately the pile of such books keeps growing and the amount of time I have been able to devote to serious reading in the last months seems to shrink with every week. To relieve the pressure, and to convince the authors that their books have not been sold off on Amazon Market Place, I have decided to write this post at least giving a basic description of those wonderful tomes waiting for my attention so that readers of this blog can go out and buy them for themselves without having to wait for my reviews.
The ones I’ve started:
Physics, History and God: Tom McLeish – Faith & Wisdom in Science
Tom McLeish is a professor for modern physics, a historian of medieval science and a devote Christian who has written a challenging contribution to the science and religion debate. As a life-long atheist I am trying to be very careful not to let my personal prejudices influence me whilst reading McLeish’s stimulating book. And very stimulating it is. At the moment I am stalled in the central chapter of the book A Theology of Science but what I have read up till now, more than half of the book, has convinced me that there is much to be got from McLeish’s well argued and extremely well written book. I will report back when I finally finish it.
Problem solving the scientific way: Chad Orzel – Eureka! Discovering Your Inner Scientist
After two books on teaching physics to dogs, fellow blogger, physicist and popular science writer Chad Orzel has turned his hand to the philosophy of science. However the reader need not fear complex arguments about Kuhn, Popper et al written in words that require constant recourse to a dictionary, Orzel’s book is a delightful romp through the way that scientists in real life solve problems. At the moment I’m stalled about a quarter of the way through because there are ‘more important’ things that I have to read but I shall definitely come back and finish this one because it’s not only informative but a pleasure to read.
DNA the whole story: Matthew Cobb – Life’s Greatest Secret
Based on having read the first half this is a superb book. Cobb writes informatively, wittily, entertainingly and with an obviously deep grasp of his material. Up till now I have learned such things as the real story of Rosalind Franklin and Photograph 51, so very different to the myths, and all about Oswald Avery, who I’d never heard of before but whose contribution to the DNA story was mega significant. Don’t wait for my review buy, borrow or as Abbie Hoffman said, steal this book and read it! I promise you that you won’t regret it.
Science contra Copernicus: Christopher M. Graney – Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo
I’ve actually finished this one and the review should appear here shortly. I’ll just say for now that it’s going to be a five star review with extra fairy dust
The ones I haven’t started yet:
Twentieth-Century Physics: Paul Halpern – Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat
Paul Halpern is an excellent science writer and the subject is one that really interests me so I’m really looking forward to finding the time for this one. I’m certain that it will live up to its excellent reviews.
Renaissance Technology: Paul Engle – Conciatore: The Life and Times of 17th Century Glassmaker Antonio Neri
I don’t have to read this one to know that it is first class history of science and technology. I have been following Paul Engle’s truly excellent blog on the book (and if you don’t already follow it you should!) for a long time and I know that this book is destined to become a classic.
Optics and Art: Laura J. Snyder – Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing
I was really pleased when Laura Snyder sent me a copy of this book not only because the subject interests me very much indeed, but because if it’s only half as well researched and written as her last book The Philosophical Breakfast Club then it’ll still be twice as good as most other semi-popular history of science books on the market. However I’m convinced it’ll be just as good as the last one and a real pleasure to read as well as being highly educational.
Last but by no means least the latest addition to the pile that arrived just hours ago in the post.
A revisionist view of the scientific revolution: David Wootton – The Invention of Science: A New History of The Scientific Revolution
David Wootton’s just published new tome, all 770 pages of it, is really burning a hole in my conscience. I would love to drop all my other commitments and dive straight into this challenging book. I know, and David Wootton knows, that he is defending a hypothesis that I, in principle, reject, the real existence of the Scientific Revolution. His personal dedication reads “For Thony in amicable disagreement. Respectfully…” This book has received glowing reviews from both Andrea Wulf and Philip Ball, two science writers whom I regard very highly so I am more than curious if David Woottton can convince me to, at least, modify my views on the so-called Scientific Revolution. I found his last history of science book Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, in which he challenged the orthodox view that Galileo was a devote Catholic, stimulating, challenging and convincing. So I think that I am again in for an interesting intellectual ride through the Early Modern Period in the hands of a master historian. We will see and I will report back when the ride is over.