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Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  280 ratings  ·  22 reviews
In this fascinating look at the European scientific advances of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, historian Lisa Jardine demonstrates that the pursuit of knowledge occurs not in isolation, but rather in the lively interplay and frequently cutthroat competition between creative minds.

The great thinkers of that extraordinary age, including Isaac Newton,
Paperback, 464 pages
Published December 5th 2000 by Anchor (first published 1999)
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I came to this book via Richard Holmes' excellent "Age of Wonder". Holmes pointed out in his book that he was focusing on the "second generation" of science - the Romantic Generation, and steered the reader to Jardine's book to understand the "first generation" of science.

Consequently, I picked up Jardine's book as a complement to Holmes' and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Adding to my enjoyment was how it spurred memories of reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle - a series full of questionable
Arvind Balasundaram
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
This book, authored by Lisa Jardine (daughter of Jacob Bronowski of Ascent of Man fame), is a read about the scientific endeavor along the lines of Richard Holmes' classic, The Age of Wonder (also reviewed by me in Goodreads). With copious illustrations and quotes from original works, the author introduces the reader to several personalities (some well-known, others not) and their pursuits in the name of science. In the process, she is very persuasive in making the argument that all science ...more
I did enjoy this book - I'd probably give it a 3.5, if the rating system allowed. It is meticulously researched, and throws interesting light on the development of science in the 17th and 18th centuries. It shows that science is not some abstract pursuit, divorced from real concerns, but tied up with military ambitions, commerce, colonialism. The first authors of guides to aspects of the natural world - fishes, plants, insects - were as concerned with turning a profit from selling specimens and ...more
A big timeline of European scientific discoveries centered around the Royal Society in England. The book is jam-packed with specific details (like names, dates, relationships), continuously referencing other events and circumstances, and challenging to read (due to sub clauses and references to other events). See previous sentence for an example.

The central argument is revealed in the Epilogue... that scientific discovery is messy and full of interpersonal conflict and human failing. The book
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
This interesting book examines the interconnection between the various scientific advances of the 17th century and manages to make such luminaries as Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, and Gian Domenico Cassini into real men rather than the passionless scientific demigods they are sometimes portrayed as having been. For the most part I found this book to be quite engaging though my interest waned a little while reading the books last few chapters. Overall, however, Ingenious Pursuits was a worthy ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating look at the cluster of genius that gave rise to modern science. It focuses on English, with a few Dutch and other European scientists of the 17th century. In addition to stars like Newton, Boyle, and Kepler there are others like Hooke, Wren,Harvey etc etc. The period was alive with mapping the world, building clocks, collecting species, and investigating all manner of natural law. Although the writing is a bit ponderous, this astonishing story tells itself.
Malini Sridharan
Oct 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book was as much about the interactions between scientists as the actual scientific breakthroughs of the 17th century. I gained a lot of insight into some of the scientists most of us know only through one "discovery," like Hooke or Boyle. The text did not get as much into the nitty gritty of scientific disputes, alchemy, and exploitative tactics as I would have liked. It definitely would have been enlivened by a little more gossip.
Jan 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in 2004 and have found myself picking it up recently. In simplest terms, it explores how inventions (such as the microscope) impacted the culture, individuals and the larger society. Seeing is believing, after all.
Rob Melich
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting topic with great pictures, but very hard to read due to odd editing and narrative flow. Would recommend to a few friends but most would be bored.
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Covers such a broad scope that her examples my not have gotten as detailed as they would have liked, but it did provide some jumping points for further study.
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jardine does an excellent job of describing the men and ideas of the scientific revolution. The book is comprehensively illustrated (so I would recommend a print copy rather than e-reader); nearly every two-page spread contains a figure of some sort, whether a scientist's hand-drawn notes, a page from a period book, or a photograph of a surviving instrument like Leeuwenhoek's microscope. She includes a number of quotes drawn from letters and publications at the time, and deciphering spelling ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable read that puts some context behind a few "great" scientific inventions and discoveries, often painting them as by-products of trying to understand somethings we think of now as commonplace or obvious. The personal stories weave together cohesively and the little bit of science is interesting. I personally was a little frustrated at the brevity of the descriptions of the inventions and experiments. Often I was left wanting a little more information to help me recall what I once ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this some years ago now and enjoyed it as a good wide ranging discussion of the scientific revolution - with an emphasis on the mainstream big names - Wren, the Royal Society etc etc. This mainstream historical view of the scientific revolution, particularly the emphasis on the aristocratic men's leadership of the process has been challenged and broadened by reading "The Jewel House" by Deborah Harkness, where she applied a sociological framework to examining the scientific revolution. ...more
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a colleague's history class. It discusses the scientific revolution in 17th century England. The book is a series of anecdotes strung together of people like Hooke, Wren, Newton, Leibnitz, Huygens, Sloane, etc These are all early participants in the scientific revolution.l Many of the anecdotes are amusing but show that science is a messy and complicated human activity and that scientific discovery comes out of the times that people live in and their social structure.
Stuart Hodge
in attempting to build a comprehensive history, Jardine does well to confine each chapter to a single topic, rather than attempt to complete the book chronologically. still, the cast-of-thousands can be hard to navigate, and some maps or relationship trees or a comprehensive timeline in the appendices would have helped. still, very interesting.
May 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Jardine's book is incredibly informative and, generally, very interesting. There are some sections that I found to be particularly dry and boring (mostly the chapter(s) on collecting and classifying plants and animals) but, for the most part, Ingenious Pursuits is an enjoyable, comprehensive guide to the Scientific Revolution.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2011
The age of invention and expansion fo the 17th and 18th centuries, Newton, Halley and Soames. Truly fascinating stories of exploration, invention and growth.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mixed bag. If it were a biography of Hooke, and only that, I would rate it higher. The rest o the book is a hodgepodge of loosely related topics.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
A great history of science, focusing on the beginnings of the British Royal Society. Fun reading!
Jon Vanderheyden
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting approach to the history of developing science. At times some rather esoteric details on sidelights, but overall a worthwhile read.
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Lisa Anne Bronowski (Jardine) was a British historian of the early modern period. From 1990 to 2011 she was Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies and Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London. Since 2008 she was Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)] She was a Member of Council of the Royal Institution, but resigned ...more

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