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The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four…

The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed…

by Laura J. Snyder

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Quite a good collective biography, offering excellent contextual details to the biographical accounts of the members of the Philosophical Breakfast Club: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. Snyder makes clear just how interconnected this group was with each other throughout their careers, and how many things these men took an interest in and spent their time with. Well written and recommended. ( )
1 vote JBD1 | Jan 16, 2015 |
This was a very interesting book. Taken from the lives of four friends who were inventors, scientists, professors, teachers, citizens and political activists. It's a look back at the progression of science as a national investment. These four men contributed greatly to inventions and science and the concept that science should be funded and promoted through government assistance. Their activism in emphasizing and demonstrating that science was not simply a individual pursuit, but a worthy national pursuit; as the outcomes provided benefits to all citizens. Some of the scientific inventions (i.e., a mathematical capable machines that could solve calculations and the organization of a systematic predictor of tides) were not only "genius" for the time, but benefited commerce, etc. ( )
  MikeBiever | Sep 10, 2014 |
This is an excellent history of science, and particularly the emergence of the scientific method and the professional scientist, in the 19th century. The story is told through the lives of a group of friends who did more than most to make new scientific discoveries and to promote science as a specific discipline with its own methods and its own claim to be a valid full-time career. Whewell, Herschel, Babbage and Jones made significant discoveries and inventions in their own right across a bewildering array of scientific subjects, but more importantly were convinced of the need to put science on a formal footing, recognised by universities as subject matter for education and as an endeavour that could be pursued as a valid career. These men coined the term 'scientist' and set in place what we now understand as the scientific discipline and method.

Snyder writes well with a strong narrative rhythm and excellent use of source material. The interwoven lives of these great men and the development of their scientific interest and discoveries creates something of a page-turner. An excellent introduction to the history of science and there discoveries of the 19th century. ( )
  pierthinker | Aug 4, 2014 |
I only gave this book 3.5 stars because it took me a long time to finish and because it is probably of interest to only a limited audience. That said, however, I found it very enjoyable. It is a book about four college friends—Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. They decided, in the way that college students often do, to change the world. Their world was the world of science, though in the 1800s, the scientific world was very different than today. They started by changing the notational system of calculus from the obscure English system of Newton to the French system we use today. You can imagine how hard it was to make that change at the university where Newton had been a professor! They went on to define how science would be conducted throughout England and the whole world. They influenced the next generation of scientists like Charles Darwin and their influence really extends to science today.

I had only heard of Charles Babbage before reading this book because of his work on computers before there really were computers. He turned out to be the least interesting of the four and the biggest jerk. While Babbage arguably invented the computer, the others made major contributions to fields as varied as astronomy, geology, economics, and mathematics. They also did things as different as serving in government, coining the word “scientist”, heading a major university (Cambridge), translating Greek poetry, and pastoring a church. They were indeed a group of college friends who changed the world. ( )
  wbc3 | Jul 24, 2012 |
This book is just brilliant! Not only is it exceptionally well-written, but it is also a wonderful historical narrative on the history of "scientist" and the field surrounding it. It's amazing how much a person or a small group of people can change the course of history. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  eheinlen | Mar 29, 2012 |
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Traces the influential friendship of William Whewell, Charles Babbage, John Herschel, and Richard Jones, citing their pivotal contributions to a significant array of scientific achievements throughout the mid-nineteenth century.

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