Stephen Wong's Reviews > The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America

The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson
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's review
Aug 10, 2011

Now I know a lot more about Joseph Priestley, the discovery of oxygen, the combustions and conflagrations of Priestley's time in England and the new United States, amid science and political friendships and the Zelig that he was of the Enlightenment in the progress of ideas in science, politics and religion.

And while some references I've met before to the Jefferson-Adams letters were ineffectual fillips to check them out, Steven Johnson's depositing them in the context of a palimpsest of a palimpsest throws the windows wide open to me to let it in. I will go hunt down this book of correspondences between John Adams in Quincy and Thomas Jefferson in Monticello.

Johnson of course put out a thesis, "The Long Zoom", which he briefly touched upon in this book. He wrote an article about it in the New York Times. I was looking for hints here and there of the thesis, and outside of the energy flows thesis he cobbles together, it was sparsely there.

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