When young Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, he hoped to discover Paradise. Inspired by the scientific ferment sweeping through Britain, the botanist had sailed with Captain Cook on his first Endeavour voyage in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discoveryastronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophicalswiftly follow in Richard Holmess original evocation of what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.
Brilliantly conceived as a relay of scientific stories, The Age of Wonder investigates the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of dynamic science, of an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives dominate the book: William Herschel and his sister Caroline, whose dedication to the study of the stars forever changed the public conception of the solar system, the Milky Way, and the meaning of the universe; and Humphry Davy, who, with only a grammar school education stunned the scientific community with his near-suicidal gas experiments that led to the invention of the miners lamp and established British chemistry as the leading professional science in Europe. This age of exploration extended to great writers and poets as well as scientists, all creators relishing in moments of high exhilaration, boundary-pushing and discovery.
Holmess extraordinary evocation of this age of wonder shows how great ideas and experimentsboth successes and failureswere born of singular and often lonely dedication, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide. He has written a book breathtaking in its originality, its storytelling energy, and its intellectual significance.
The Age of Wonder is stirring reading for anyone interested in the lives of extraordinary, world-altering people. Learning how and when great poets and great scientists met one another, read each other’s work, or absorbed each other’s speculations and discoveries makes reading The Age of Wonder an especially ecstatic adventure. From every angle, this is a wonderful book. (Reviewed by Jo Perry).
The Christian Science Monitor
I have to say that at times that stream flows sluggishly with Holmes at the helm, and at more than a few points I was leafing ahead to find out what the next chapter was about. But his delight in his material is unmistakable.
The New York Times Book Review
...Mr. Holmes’s excitement at fusing long-familiar events and personages into something startlingly new is not unlike the exuberance of the age that animates his groundbreaking book.
[T]he most flat-out fascinating book so far this year. Holmes' account... is beyond riveting
The subject makes this book most relevant for readers of general science and history of science, but its engaging narratives of the period could appeal to a broader readership.
Enjoyable excavation of a time when science and art fed off each other, to the benefit of both communities.
Starred Review. It's an engrossing portrait of scientists as passionate adventurers, boldly laying claim to the intellectual leadership of society.
The Sunday Times (UK)
Holmes suffuses his book with the joy, hope, and wonder of the revolutionary era. Reading it is like a holiday in a sunny landscape, full of fascinating bypaths that lead to unexpected vistas.
The Guardian (UK)
Gives us .... a new model for scientific exploration and poetic expression in the Romantic period. Informative and invigoration, generous and beguiling, it is, indeed, wonderful.
The Independent (UK)
Romanticism and Science are justly reunited in Holmes's new book ... A revelation ... Thrilling.
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
Exhilarating ... Instructive and delightful ... Finely observed ... Generous and hugely enjoyable.
Biographer, poet, editor and historian Richard Holmes was born in London and attended Cambridge. Hes the author of:
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy (poems)
Shelley: The Pursuit
Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage
Coleridge: Early Visions
Coleridge: Darker Reflections
Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer
Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer
Insights: The Romantic Poets and their Circle
Of biography Holmes says:
"Of course I think biography aspires to be an art, just as the novel does. It is a piece of imaginative storytelling, as well as an historical investigation. It celebrates the wonderful diversity of human nature, and its aim is enlightenment. But biography is also a vocation, a calling. The dead call to us out of the past,...
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