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Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific…

Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution (original 1999; edition 1999)

by Lisa Jardine

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462822,468 (3.28)18
Title:Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution
Authors:Lisa Jardine
Info:Abacus (2000), Paperback, 444 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Non-Fiction, Science, History, Royal Society, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Engineering, Technology, Philosophy

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Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution by Lisa Jardine (1999)

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    Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson (ztutz)
    ztutz: The Baroque Cycle, historical fiction by Neal Stephenson, features the Royal Society prominently.

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Susanna's recommendation. Looks sweet.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
A year or so ago, I greatly enjoyed reading another book by Lisa Jardine, "Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance", but I couldn't justify it for "Hal's Picks" because it didn't have much scientific content. When I heard about "Ingenious Pursuits", I bought it from a book club and read it right away. My regret is that I didn't buy the hardcover version, because this is a book that I will keep for a long time. Lisa Jardine is Professor of English at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, but she is also a daughter of Jacob Bronowski, and she displays the independence of thought and the ability to view history in creative ways that characterized her late father. In "Ingenious Pursuits", she follows the early history of Western science (mostly 17th and 18th centuries) by focusing on the work of the inventors who created the equipment essential to the progress of science. Many of these names are already familiar: Hooke and Huygens, for example. I, for one, was unaware of the extent of the scientific interests of the famous architect, Christopher Wren, until I read this book. I also didn't know that many of the early experiments with vacuum pumps involved the asphyxiation of small animals, often for entertainment. Wren and Robert Boyle, famous to chemists for his contribution to gas laws, were involved in gruesome experiments to discover how respiration works by vivisecting large numbers of dogs. ( )
  hcubic | Jan 27, 2013 |
This interesting book from Lisa Jardine is almost a history of the early years of the Royal Society. Jardine fixes on the latter half of the seventeenth century where scientists were either competing on collaborating to drive forward a host of new technological developments that led to many of the devices that we take for granted today. For instance, the clock, telescope and microscope all leapt forward during that period, largely as a consequence of the exertions of the various polymaths who gathered to share and discuss their respective discoveries at the regular meetings of the Royal Society.
This is an accessible book - one of Professor Jardine's strengths is her ability to explain scientific theories in a concise, clear and readily understood manner. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Dec 7, 2012 |
Not as interesting as I thought it would be. I had trouble following the book, mostly from lack of interest; there was more information than I needed. There is a cast of characters, but since the book is not organized chronologically, a timeline would have been helpful. ( )
  atiara | Aug 13, 2010 |
I was attracted by Lisa Jardine’s book because of my interest both in the history of science and in 17th-century England. But I must avow that it deceived me. One of the reasons is that Jardine does not seem to be well-acquainted with science: even if she is able to discuss it at length, she lacks precision on some particular points, and I found this sometimes irritating.

However, the book contains some interesting anecdotes, especially the one about Newton and Flamsteed, and the way Newton insisted on publishing Flamsteed’s History of the Heavens without the consent of the author. The arguments raised by Newton—Flamsteed’s salary paid from the public purse—and those raised by Flamsteed—instruments paid by himself for his personal use—are finally very modern. I was glad to learn that Flamsteed eventually gained authorization to destroy the last three hundred copies of the unduly published book.

An example of errors I could spot in the book is provided by Jardine’s telling—in her chapter Running Like Clockwork—that Cassini’s method for computing the longitude of an observation site from the motion of the first moon of Jupiter was accurate within one degree, ‘a distance at France’s latitude of about 60 miles’. This is true for one degree in latitude; but for one degree in longitude at about 45° in latitude, the corresponding distance is to be multiplied by 0.7 approximately, that is: about 40 miles.

Another topic of dissatisfaction is the way chapters are organized, with the same story told over and over again, with the same details. Jardine gives the impression to have written her chapters separately, then to have put them together without realizing that they partly contained the same information. An example among others is the way the original Greenwich observatory was built, money having been raised by selling surplus gunpowder from the third Dutch war, with materials coming from old Ordnance stocks. The story is told at length in chapter 1, and again in chapter 4, just in case the reader had forgotten. Similar repetitions happen all through the book, which sometimes gives the reader the impression of ‘pedalling in sauerkraut’, to use an imaged French phrase.

In conclusion: some interesting anecdotes, but the book is too loosely written, with many events repeated in different chapters, and also scientific imprecision. I do not really commend it. ( )
  Pepys | Jan 29, 2010 |
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"seeks to show that the convergence of the humanities and natural sciences drove technological innovation in order to solve very real problems of the age"
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For my father, Jacob Bronweski, who showed me the way, and for Freya and Zoe, who are the future
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At the end of the seventeenth century, a century and a half before the glare of electric street-lighting, the skies above London were dark at night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385720017, Paperback)

Even Einstein had to eat. We seem to forget that scientists live in the same world as the rest of us, and that their work is informed by everything they encounter day to day. Lisa Jardine explores this interconnectedness in the context of the late 17th-century scientific revolution in Ingenious Pursuits, a well-planned journey back in time that delivers precious insight into the lives of those who laid the groundwork for cloning, nuclear weapons, and Internet commerce. Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, and Gian Domenico Cassini are just a few of the multitalented explorers that Jardine profiles through diaries, letters, and scientific records. Taking the time to fully flesh out the lives of these adventurous spirits, she shows the reader that science began as a natural curiosity about the material world, inspired by diverse interests: art, religion, medicine, engineering, and more.

Political meddling in science is nothing new; even 300 years ago rulers competed for knowledge and the status that came from scientific achievement. Jardine expands on this premise to see the colonial expansion of the time as a driving force behind research, responsible for the contemporary explosions in cartography, botany, and optics. While Ingenious Pursuits stays for the most part in the 17th century, it does remind us of our own interwoven scientific and social threads, and that perhaps the next revolutionary breakthrough will come about as much because of telemarketers as National Science Foundation grants. --Rob Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:19 -0400)

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