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The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  594 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
A few million years ago, our ancestors came down from the trees and began to stand upright, freeing our hands to create tools and our minds to grapple with the world around us.

Leonard Mlodinow takes us on a passionate and inspiring tour through the exciting history of human progress and the key events in the development of science. In the process, he presents a fascinati
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Pantheon
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Apr 26, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an engaging book by an excellent author. I've read a few of his books and they have all been excellent. This book is sort of a history of science. Not a complete history--there is no attempt to make it comprehensive.

The book covers physics, chemistry, biology, and quantum mechanics. It is filled with anecdotes and interesting stories that help make the scientists come alive.

The book is also about Mlodinow's father, a holocaust survivor. When his father was in a concentration camp, he ha
Morgan Blackledge
Dec 17, 2015 Morgan Blackledge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upright Thinkers by Leonard Moldinow is in part, an attempt to explain the history of science to his father, a holocaust survivor with a 7th grade education (see page 1).

Moldinow is particularly good at explaining science in a way that is fun and engaging.

He's essentially writing to his beloved father. He's making it so his dad could get it. Not in a condescending way. Not at all. Moldinow's writing is smart and he clearly relates to his audience as if we're smart too. But just perhaps lacking t
Aziz Alkattan
Feb 06, 2016 Aziz Alkattan rated it it was amazing
One of the most inspirational books I've read in my life. The book outlines the lives and achievements of various scientists, from Aristotle and Galileo to Schrodinger and Einstein. what all these scientists and creative thinkers have in common is that even in the face of unsurmountable obstacles, they worked hard to achieve their goals. Even when people told them that they were crazy and that their ideas were ridiculous, they persevered

I'm so happy to be in the scientific field, and I love tha
Troy Blackford
Nov 20, 2015 Troy Blackford rated it it was amazing
This was a remarkable book synthesizing many fields and filtering its analysis through the very human perspective and voice of its author. An incredible journey filled with interest both human and scientific. A profound and vital series of discoveries. I strongly recommend this book, even to those who are already familiar (as I was) with most of the scientific ground covered. The perspective it gives you on the evolution of human understanding is both humbling and empowering.
Brian Clegg
May 04, 2015 Brian Clegg rated it liked it
Leonard Mlodinow is probably best known as co-author of a pair of books with Stephen Hawking (for example, The Grand Design), so it was interesting to see his writing away from the great man's shadow. Generally his style is light, slick and enjoyable, though he sometimes tries too hard to be witty, peppering the book with a jokiness that gets wearing. I could do with a little less of remarks like
The first cities did not arise suddenly as if nomads one day decided to band together and the next th
Sep 15, 2015 Venky rated it really liked it
Shelves: bibliocase
I sincerely wish Leonard Mlodinow comes out with a students' edition of this remarkable book. This is a book that needs to be made prescribed, if not compulsory reading for every student who has taken up Science and every other student who wished he had taken up the subject. Covering within its sweep themes such as evolutionary biology, theoretical and quantum physics and chemistry, Mlodinow's magnificent tour de force traces the cultural, social, sociological, and scientific evolution of man. ...more
Anders Brabaek
This is basically a science history book starting from the early humanoids, and ending with modern day science. When it comes to modern times, Mlodinow focuses predominantly on physics. As that, it is an excellent, and wonderful book (just as the other books by Mlodinow). At the end of the book, Mlodinow promotes a rather weak argument for why physics is where the most explosive issues are to be found. In this case he probably should had emphasized “remember who is talking – a physicist”.
Mar 22, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it
A very readable and fascinating history of humankind's relationship with science and the long path of discovery which has lead to the understanding of the universe we now possess. Split into 3 sections - the thousands of years of pre-history and early civilization leading to the scientific revolution; the hundreds of years in which science came of age; and the more recent past in which our world has been altered unimaginably by quantum physics and high technology - Mlodinow shows how our world ...more
David Melbie
Jun 15, 2015 David Melbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science fans
Recommended to David by: Personal pick
This is easily the most readable book on the history of science one could ever find. And funny, too. I admire the way the author interjects and blends his own story into the whole, especially how he shared his father's wisdom, such as it was, to help the story further.
May 11, 2016 Angie rated it it was amazing
See my Amazon review:
Re-read May 2016 for The Sunday Philosophers
Nov 07, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it

4.5 stars

For humans to advance from wandering hunter-gatherers to the savvy beings we are today - able to use all kinds of intricate gadgets and even send spacecraft out into the cosmos - there had to be significant advancements in knowledge and technology. In this book Mlodinow talks about the major leaps of mankind and how they came about.

Mlodinow focuses on three areas: evolution of the human mind; discoveries related to astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology; and the revolutionary field
Jul 17, 2015 Book rated it really liked it
The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos by Leonard Mlodinow

“The Upright Thinkers" is an enjoyable tour through the history of science. Best-selling author and a physicist, Leonard Mlodinow takes the reader on a fun journey that begins with the evolution of the human brain and ends with our excursion into quantum mechanics. This excellent 352-page book is divided into the following three majors parts: I. The Upright Thinkers, II. The Sciences, and
Leonard Mlodinow in conversation with Krista Tippett about randomness and choice, on NPR stations over the weekend, (Chicago born in 1959 to two Holocaust survivors.)
John Kaufmann
Jun 22, 2015 John Kaufmann rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Hard to categorize. It's written by a scientist (Mlodinow is a physicist in real life), and traces several key scientific developments - but it's not about science per se. While he gives a lot of examples from the fields of physics and chemistry, that's not the aim of the book; one can find more detailed explanations of those discoveries and theories elsewhere. What this book is about is the developments in the human brain and human culture that lead to the scientific worldview.

It began 40,000-
Jul 16, 2015 Greg rated it liked it
Leonard Mlodinow believes that upright thinkers are often odd, always tenacious, frequently iconoclastic, and definitely bold. His aim in this book is to follow the evolution of scientific thought from the cavemen to the present by characterizing several of these thinkers. His intent is to describe scientific thought in a way that any reasonably intelligent and inquisitive layperson might easily understand it. He uses his father as a stand-in for that person. This choice is admirable since it ...more
Kristi Richardson
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton

I received this book as part of the Goodreads First to read program for an honest review.

“The Upright Thinkers” by Leonard Mlodinow is so much more than I thought this book was going to be about. I thought it was more on primitive man and how they learned and grew. Instead to my delight, it was the history of the different sciences and their discoveries, from biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics and quantum the
Ian James
Jan 11, 2016 Ian James rated it really liked it
There's a lot to like about this book and a little to be annoyed by.

Mlodinow's overview of our species' arc of intellectual evolution can be a bit fluffy and aims painfully at lowest common denominator-type comedy to make science "fun!" (if I'd read one more time about how teenagers don't listen to their parents, I would've shut the book forever).


He hits on some truly meaningful and insightful moments in human history that force us (or at least me) to change the way we think of human in
Peter Gelfan
Jun 15, 2015 Peter Gelfan rated it really liked it
This book presents the intellectual history of the branch of human discovery and thought that today thrives as science. Mlodinow tells it as an episodic story of the major experimental and theoretical upheavals leading from ignorance and superstition to string theory. (Okay, pause here for snide jokes about what’s the difference. Well, Mlodinow will tell you.)

If you’ve kept up with modern science, The Upright Thinkers will contain few surprises (if you haven’t, the book is a godsend). But he put
D.L. Morrese
May 10, 2015 D.L. Morrese rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-nonfiction
This overview of humanity's quest to understand the physical world is broad in scope, not overly detailed, and engaging. It's not defending any particular position or arguing any specific theory. It simply summarizes key events that have advanced our species' knowledge of nature. There's probably not much in here that people with a casual interest in science isn't already familiar with from similar books. This one is organized chronologically, showing how one discovery led to another, how ...more
Jan 05, 2016 Derya rated it it was amazing
A beautiful tapestry of the history and philosophy of science--it weaves together information about the development of the scientific method and the various fields of study, as well as the stories of the people behind them (and Mlodinow's own story), into a cohesive and compelling narrative.
A unique spin on this genre of science history/philosophy is the way Mlodinow builds the story of science around the uniquely human search for meaning, and shows how that question itself changes as the scien
May 10, 2016 Roney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fiz a resenha em vídeo:

É similar ao livro Sapiens. Percorre o mesmo trajeto desde as nossas origens até a origem e desenvolvimento da ciência, mas enquanto o primeiro tem uma visão um pouco mais metafísica e voltada a imaginar nosso caráter futuro esse se concentra em conceitos mais objetivos nos dando uma visão bem mais consistente do ponto em que estamos na ciência e na consciência.

É uma das melhores obras que li até hoje nesse tema.
Sep 26, 2016 Zula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Asemenea celorlalte carti de popularizare a stiintei publicate de editura Herald... excelenta!
O plimbare prin istoria stiintei ce incepe cu preistoria si se termina cu ultimele descoperiri ale mecanicii cuantice.
Jul 12, 2016 Amantha rated it did not like it
I didn't actually finish this. It started out interesting, but then devolved into an extended biography of Isaac Newton who, it turns out, isn't that interesting and I've already read about multiple times in other books. I was hoping to learn new information.
Lukas Dufka
An enjoyable primer on the history of science. Particularly strong in its meticulous tracing of how our minds changed in response to new inventions and discoveries, and illustrating how these came about by initially haphazard process of accumulation, which grew only ever so slightly more systematic with the passing of centuries, until we reached the point where modern science is today.

The methodical approach by which this is achieved is, nevertheless, often at the expense of the sense of awe an
Bianca Walters
Nov 30, 2016 Bianca Walters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: learning
Leonard Mlodinow manages to make accessible the long and complex journey that we as humans have made from a small rodent-looking placental mammal called Protungulatum to walking, talking thinking machines. He focuses on how we developed science, dissecting the nature and origin of human curiosity. Science writing has a tendency to be a little uppity - it's difficult to remain grounded when you're a genius I guess but Mlodinow is in with a small group of excellent scientists who also has a knack ...more
Jane Walker
Oct 20, 2016 Jane Walker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I was rather disappointed in this. It starts well enough, covering the development in early humans of their ways of understanding the world. Mlodinow's jokiness is sometimes irritating, but it's an attempt to lighten the theme. But then the book becomes a "great minds of science" story, tracking steps towards modern ideas in physics particularly. I wanted more than this, an exploration of thinking.
Nov 24, 2016 Dave rated it liked it
Great thinkers and philosophers built on each other's work over history.

Newtonian physics still works for a normal mass world. Versus the quantum theory, which explains the very small world of sub atomic particles. Both led to great advances in understanding and technology.
Tristan Bills
Nov 12, 2016 Tristan Bills rated it liked it
I would recommend this book to science geeks like me, anyone who enjoyed science class but wants to refresh their memory, and students interested in the history of the natural sciences.
Oct 15, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I do wish I could give this 4 1/2 stars. I reserve my 5s for life-changers and this doesn't quite qualify, but it is an excellent history of human discovery. A wonderful read.
Jun 09, 2015 Jorge rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
The first part of this book is one of the most original presentation of the history of human thought (and consciousness) I’ve read. It tells us how we slowly evolved the tools needed to handle a harsh world—and survive there—and how we later came up with more sophisticated ones to interpret the Universe.

A prominent monument from our early story has been recently found in southeastern Turkey—Göbekli Tepe—being probably the oldest known building (about 12,000 years old). It’s somewhat ironic that
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Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist and author.

Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959, of parents who were both Holocaust survivors. His father, who spent more than a year in the Buchenwald death camp, had been a leader in the Jewish resistance under Nazi rule in his hometown of Częstochowa, Poland. As a child, Mlodinow was interested in both mathematics and chemistry, and while in high schoo
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“Robert Frost wrote in 1914, “Why abandon a belief / Merely because it ceases to be true.” 3 likes
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 2 likes
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