Last night was the second meeting of the London Science Book Club, and it was another wonderfully mind-expanding discussion. Our book was The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, which is a hefty book first published in 2008.
For all of us (and yesterday's group included an astronomer), it was a revelatory read and a real page-turner. That period of history, between the Enlightenment and industrialisation, was perhaps the most important in British science. It saw the founding of the Royal Society, the Royal Institution and what came to be the Royal Geographical Society. Explorers like Joseph Banks and Mungo Park were investigating the furthest reaches (as they saw them) of the natural world, while astronomers William and Caroline Herschel were transforming our view of the universe. But what was most surprising to us readers was that the Romantic poets and artists had such an important place in intellectual circles with scientists (although, we learned, they weren't actually called scientists until later). Coleridge and Shelley were enthralled by the new science of the time, and at the same time, scientists were also writing their own (often pretty good) poetry and prose.
So in short, The Age of Wonder was such a great book that we even loved the footnotes, and it's one that has inspired at least a few of us to read around the history and poetry of that time even more.
Our next book choice is The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum. Keep an eye out for our verdict on that in about two months!