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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,328 ratings  ·  175 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 fascinat
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Pantheon
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Nic I'm not sure what time period that was written about, but in the ancient world corn was the general name for cereal grains. Corn as we know it was…moreI'm not sure what time period that was written about, but in the ancient world corn was the general name for cereal grains. Corn as we know it was later called maize. (less)

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4.08  · 
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 ·  1,328 ratings  ·  175 reviews

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Apr 26, 2016 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
Nov 05, 2016 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
Morgan Blackledge
Jun 25, 2015 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
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Big science book that goes over important points in our human development, starting with prehistory and ending with Heisenberg. I was a little bit dumbfounded that almost nothing was mentioned of the big thinkers in astrophysics, but hey, maybe it wasn't planned all along. It goes through early astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics and its huge forwarders, but has almost no mention of modern astronomy - which is a loss, in my opinion. Still, it gets 5 stars - not only is it conc ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The Science was explained in easy language, anyone can benefit from this book. The humor of the author translates into the book and makes it more palatable . The first half of the book is more easy to understand than the last one tough, This book enters murky waters when it start dealing with quantum physics (its approach is a little advanced), but other than that the book is very approachable and written in layman terms. I recommend it to anyone to who has an interest in scie ...more
Aziz Alkattan
Feb 02, 2016 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 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.
Al Bità
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amiable and quite readable excursion into a kind of explanatory history of the development of certain types of thinking is presented here for your reading pleasure!

Mlodinow is a gentle guide: he uses the trope of providing an explanation of his fascination with physics as if he were talking to his (now deceased) father — by trying to “explain” to a non-physicist how and why he considers physics so important for humanity’s understanding of our physical world. Thus, for me, the intention of thi
Brian Clegg
May 04, 2015 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 12, 2015 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. T ...more
Mar 11, 2015 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 i ...more
Mikael Lind
A very enthralling read! This is the book on natural science and physics that I've always wanted to read. It's extremely engaging, and despite dealing with ideas too grand for my own knowledge, Mlodinow manages to present them in such a way that you as a reader get a glimpse of what they're about anyway. It's a great resource to be able to explain difficult ideas with simple language.

The book is an exposé of human thinking. It goes back to the earliest humans, and tries to explain how our fascin
Justin Powell
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book, but would have been more enjoyable if more of the "story" was new information to me. Would be a great introduction to many people, though.
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 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think that this is a book that everyone in high school should read. Mlodinow writes in a way that even a middleschooler could understand a comprehensive history of physics, biology, and chemistry. I think it's super important that we take advantage of all of this knowledge that's in easy reach. This book is fun to read and uses humor in a way that I would never expect from a book about the history of science. And I think I could easily read this book again and come away with new things that I ...more
Ashley Reid
This was an interesting book to begin with, but unfortunately it couldn't keep my attention for long. After the first few chapters I didn't want to keep reading, but continued hoping that it would improve. It didn't.
David Melbie
Jun 12, 2015 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.
Angie Boyter
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
See my Amazon review:
Re-read May 2016 for The Sunday Philosophers
Jul 16, 2015 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
Tanvir Sady
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Its another book on the history of science and scientific protagonists throughout the ages. The writer is a born storyteller. While reading the book, it would seem to you that you and the writer is having a lively conversation about such a topic over a cups of coffee and cigarettes.

The writer, a well-known physicist, informs us that the developments in science are initiated each time by an initially strange seemed idea which neither gets social recognition nor gets support to grow further. Somet
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot. There's a lot of history of physics, a lot of it modern, some Newtonian.
There's also bits of history of chemistry. Just a little bit though, probably to make sure that the reader wouldn't get too excited about chemistry and forget about physics. And then there's also the beginning of the book that is about evolution. All in all it's a nice mixture, although it's in most parts physics :). I find it interesting how Mlodinow went into great lengths in writing about the dif
John Kaufmann
Jun 22, 2015 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-
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the authors own words, this book "imparted an appreciation of the roots of human thought about the physical world, the kinds of questions those who study it concern themselves with, the nature of theories and research, and the ways in which culture and belief systems affect human inquiry. ...much of this book has also been about the way scientists and other innovators think." I found it fascinating, but it was not an easy read. At times I got lost in the minutiae of theoretical physics and I ...more
Jun 13, 2015 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 in ...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
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While it was easy to read, fun and entertaining, I also found it to be a very informative and enlightening examination of the history of science and how our current systems evolved from the time hominids began to be curious to the quantum age Mlodinow touched on all the major scientists and the fundamental contributions they have made to our current understandings and practice of science today. It was the most thorough compilation of these figures I have read, wit ...more
Lukas Dufka
Nov 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
Ian James
Aug 07, 2015 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 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
Apr 30, 2015 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 theori ...more
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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
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” 4 likes
“A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself” 3 likes
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