Matt's Reviews > The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
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's review
Apr 13, 12

bookshelves: audiobooks, nonfiction
Read from March 04 to April 12, 2012

This book was fairly meandering and anecdotal, which made it an enjoyable (though not super-propulsive) listen. But I learned a lot: about Captain Cook (and a young Joseph Banks, future long-term head of the Royal Society) in Samoa, about Mungo Park in Africa, and about 'vitalism' theories that inspired Mary Shelley for Frankenstein (my three favorite chapters, I think), as well as about early anesthesia, astronomy and the discovery of Uranus, the invention of a safe minor's lamp and other deeds of Humphrey Davie, the development of chemistry as a science, early ballooning, and so many other things. Holmes weaves in Coleridge, Wordsworth, and other Romantics, but I never got a complete sense of how they fit into the whole story, which is dominated by Banks, Davie, and William Herschel.
But I now (for at least a little while, until I start forgetting things) know a bunch of interesting stories from a fairly wild time of scientific history. And I did really enjoy the Samoa and Mungo Park chapter, especially -- they'd be worth a re-read. All told, an engaging and intriguing book, but no A Brief History of Nearly Everything.
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