“Impressive, Engaging, Valuable” –CHOICE

A wonderful review from CHOICE, the review magazine of the American Library Association:

“An impressive biography of four Victorian polymaths….The men’s entangled lives and work make engaging and informative reading. A valuable book….Highly recommended.”

The complete review:

Philosopher and science historian Snyder (St. John’s Univ.) has written an impressive biography of four Victorian polymaths: William Whewell, Charles Babbage, John Herschel, and Richard Jones. Their individual achievements are remarkable. Herschel made important contributions in astronomy, including mapping southern stars and discovering Uranus, and in photography. Babbage worked on a mechanical computer and its mathematics, and Jones authored books on economic theory and English government economic policy. Whewell made wide-ranging contributions in astronomical and mineralogical studies and educational reforms. He also wrote major philosophical works on the history and philosophy of the “inductive sciences,” integrating his theology and ethical notions into science (both he and Babbage contributed Bridgewater treatises on science and religion), and influenced Lyell, Maxwell, and Darwin in important ways. The collaborations of these remarkable men in economics, science, mathematics, and social policy, particularly their development of institutional reform–notably their formation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science–virtually created the “profession” of science with its institutions, curricula, norms, and methods. Whewell coined the term “scientist” and provided Faraday and others with terminology for their discoveries. The men’s entangled lives and work make engaging and informative reading. A valuable book for all undergraduate libraries. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, professional, and general readers. Copyright 2011 American Library Association.


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About the Author

Laura J. Snyder, Ph.D., is a science historian, philosopher and writer whose most recent book, The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends who Transformed Science and Changed the World, was an Official Selection of the TED Book Club, a Scientific American Notable Book, and winner of the 2011 Royal Institution of Australia Poll for Favorite Science Book. It was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title" in history of science and technology by the American Library Association. Snyder is Professor of Philosophy at St. John's University in New York City and writes frequently about science and ideas for The Wall Street Journal. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a Life Member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, and Past President of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science.

 She is currently working on a book about how new optical technologies in the 17th century revolutionized not only science, but also art and the rest of culture. Follow Laura Snyder on Twitter and Facebook.

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