Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pg. 69: John Gribbin's "The Fellowship"

Today's featured book at the "Page 69 Test" is John Gribbin's The Fellowship.

About the book, from the publisher:

Seventeenth-century England was racked by civil war, plague, and fire; a world ruled by superstition and ignorance. But then a series of meetings of ‘natural philosophers’ in Oxford and London saw the beginning of a new method of thinking based on proof and experiment. And at the heart of this Renaissance were the founding fathers of modern western science: The Royal Society.

John Gribbin’s gripping, colorful account of this unparalleled time of discovery explores the birth of the Society and brings its prime movers to life, including: William Gilbert, Francis Bacon, William Harvey, Christopher Wren, Robert Morey, Robert Hooke, and his ambitious rival Isaac Newton.

This compelling book shows how the triumph of the revolution that changed our world — and still continues 350 years on — was ultimately not the work of one isolated genius, but of a Fellowship.

From Publishers Weekly:

"In his latest book, astrophysicist and veteran science writer Gribbin (In Search of Schrodinger's Cat) sweeps away the dust of historical distance to offer a detailed look into the lives and obsessions of the men at the heart of the scientific revolution and the birth of the Royal Society: 'the right people, in the right place, at the right time.' Italy, says Gribbin, would have birthed the scientific revolution, building on Galileo's efforts, but for the stifling interference of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile William Gilbert was studying magnetism in England and advocating the use of hands-on methods — experimentation — countering the rigid, traditional Aristotelian view that pure thought was enough to understand the workings of the universe. The value of testing hypotheses through experimentation was reinforced by Francis Bacon and created a new generation of thinkers, led by Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle, who created the Royal Society. At first the society was financially dependent on wealthy amateur scientists, but soon Robert Hooke's experiments in physics and chemistry made the society justly famous. Isaac Newton 'completed the task of turning a somewhat dilettante gentleman's talking shop into a truly learned society.' Gribbin is an ideal and entertaining narrator for this lively story of intellectual discovery and brotherhood."

Visit John Gribbin's website, and learn more about The Fellowship.

Gribbin recently named a "five best" list of "scientific works [that] are also literature of a high order" for Opinion Journal.

The "Page 69 Test": The Fellowship.

--Marshal Zeringue