Though I've been busy with my seasonal reads, I took the time out to read a non-fiction title that proved almost as exciting as any of the sensational stories. Hiding behind the impressive title of The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Richard Holmes has written a highly accessible book about the progress of science in England during the Georgian and Regency times.
This book is more than a simple timeline of historical events related to science and natural philosophy. It is a string of biographies and also a period history including the politics, poetry and religion of the times. Holmes is a fantastic writer with a sense of humor and an easy way of presenting what could be a daunting subject. Whether discussing William Herschel and his expansion of our knowledge of the cosmos, Joseph Banks and his exploration and leadership skills or Humphry Davy and his chemistry and engineering genius, each man comes alive and his contribution to science during the Romantic Era is clear. And if you have no interest in these pioneers then perhaps you will enjoy reading about Mary Shelley and the effect of her well-known novel on the public view of science or about the poets Keats, Shelley and Coleridge and their support of and inclusion of science in their poetry and prose. I enjoyed seeing how the groundwork was laid for such geniuses as Darwin and Faraday -- the establishment of a climate in England that allowed these men (and a few women) to revolutionize our theories and our world during Victorian times.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, science or Georgian and Regency England.
Appreciating when fact proves as compelling as fiction,
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