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Across the road from where I live a house has a new plaque, recording that Thomas Bayes, preacher and mathematician lived there. He is, I learn from Bill Bryson’s introduction, his favourite Royal Society fellow. Bayes died in 1761 and a friend sent his theorem to the Royal Society after his death – a theorem that had no practical use in his lifetime but is now of prime importance in computer calculations. In keeping and publishing such work, it sums up the importance of the Royal Society, the oldest such scientific society in the world, now celebrating its 350th birthday. And here you have a splendid, really well illustrated tribute, a gathering of some of the top names in the field contributing essays celebrating science and the Society.
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The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Richard Holmes
Edited and introduced by Bill Bryson, with contributions from Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Richard Holmes, Martin Rees, Richard Fortey, Steve Jones, James Gleick and Neal Stephenson amongst others, this beautiful, lavishly illustrated book tells the story of science and the Royal Society, from 1660 to the present. On a damp weeknight in November, 350 years ago, a dozen or so men gathered at Gresham College in London. A twenty-eight year old -- and not widely famous -- Christopher Wren was giving a lecture on astronomy. As his audience listened to him speak, they decided that it would be a good idea to create a Society to promote the accumulation of useful knowledge. With that, the Royal Society was born.
Since its birth, the Royal Society has pioneered scientific exploration and discovery. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Locke, Alexander Fleming -- all were fellows. Bill Bryson's favourite fellow was Reverend Thomas Bayes, a brilliant mathematician who devised Bayes' theorem. Its complexity meant that it had little practical use in Bayes' own lifetime, but today his theorem is used for weather forecasting, astrophysics and stock market analysis. A milestone in mathematical history, it only exists because the Royal Society decided to preserve it -- just in case.
The Royal Society continues to do today what it set out to do all those years ago. Its members have split the atom, discovered the double helix, the electron, the computer and the World Wide Web. Truly international in its outlook, it has created modern science. 'Seeing Further' celebrates its momentous history and achievements, bringing together the very best of science writing. Filled with illustrations of treasures from the Society's archives, this is a unique, ground-breaking and beautiful volume, and a suitable reflection of the immense achievements of science.
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Publisher: HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
|Publication date:||7th January 2010|
|Publisher:||HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers|
|Genres:||eBook Favourites, Popular Science,|
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to America for a few years but have now returned to the UK. He is the bestselling author of The Lost Continent, Mother Tongue, Neither Here Nor There, Made in America, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods, Notes From a Big Country, Down Under and, most recently, A Short History of Nearly Everything. He is also the author of the bestselling ...More About Bill Bryson