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The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius
by Mike Jay
At the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, England, founded in the closing years of the eighteenth century, dramatic experiments with gases precipitated not only a revolution in scientific medicine but also in the history of ideas. Guided by the energy of maverick doctor Thomas Beddoes, the institution was both laboratory and hospital—the first example of a modern medical re ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Yale University Press
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More late 18th C, and another look at the science of Joseph Priestley's times... when science was in a growth spurt, and modern chemistry was being born. Through Beddoes story, we are immersed in the life of a late 18th C man of science at a time of high ideals. Freethinkers wanted fair and free society, so abolition of slavery was a rising concern. The ideals of the French Revolution inspired these men to hope for justice. And Beddoes' own commitment to the betterment of the human condition all ...more
As an enthusiast of the history of medicine and science, this is one of the best books I have read in recent memory. Very colorful cast of characters caught in the sweep of revolutionary fever that permeated everything from politics to science and social reform. Very erudite with regards to research and writing. The author cites almost exclusively original sources and is thus bringing a lot of original thinking and analysis on the subject. Researching and writing this must have involved an immen ...more
I love quirky, well-written science books. This is a fun read. It's about Dr Beddoes of England who discovers the properties of laughing gas. He is surrounded by the foremost men of science from 18th Century England, such as James Watt. He lives during a time of great political turmoil -- when bloody ripples of the French Revolution are cascading across Europe, and he finds himself on the "wrong" side of the British political establishment. Combines science and history, two of my book-reading lo ...more
A look at the 1790s as England grappled with the radical ideas of the French revolution and the equally astonishing theories coming out of modern chemistry. The book focuses on a particular scientist, Beddoes, who while wrong in most of his theories (he believed the right combination of gas would cure tuberculosis) embodies the scientific curiosity of the era, and successfully inspired "sons of genius" such as chemist Humphrey Davies and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
This story of the unfolding of new scientific vistas, some harnessed for present benefit, some curiously mismatched with the times and destined for the future, is told with unflagging energy and intelligence by Jay. More: http://dreamflesh.com/library/mike-ja...