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Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Societyby Bill Bryson
Synopses & Reviews
Edited and introduced by Bill Bryson, with original contributions from "a glittering array of scientific writing talent" (Sunday Observer) including Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Richard Holmes, Martin Rees, Richard Fortey, Steve Jones, James Gleick, and Neal Stephenson, among others, this incomparable book tells the spectacular story of science and the international Royal Society, from 1660 to the present. Seeing Further is also gorgeously illustrated with photographs, documents, and treasures from the Society's exclusive archives.
On a damp weeknight in November three hundred and fifty years ago, a dozen men gathered in London. After hearing an obscure twenty-eight-year-old named Christopher Wren lecture on the wonders of astronomy, his rapt audience was moved to create a society to promote the accumulation of useful — and fascinating — knowledge. At that, the Royal Society was born, and with it, modern science.
Since then, the Royal Society has pioneered global scientific exploration and discovery. Its members have split the atom, discovered the double helix and the electron, and given us the computer and the World Wide Web. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, John Locke, Alexander Fleming, Stephen Hawking — all have been fellows. Bill Bryson's favorite fellow is the Reverend Thomas Bayes, a brilliant mathematician who devised Bayes' theorem. Its complexity meant that it had little practical use in Bayes' own lifetime, but today his theorem is used for weather forecasting, astrophysics, and even stock-market analysis. A milestone in mathematical history, it exists only because the Royal Society decided to preserve it — just in case.
Truly global in its outlook, the Royal Society now is credited with creating modern science. Seeing Furtheris an unprecedented celebration of its history and the power of ideas, bringing together the very best of science writing.
"Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) presents a remarkable collection of essays celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of London and its many contributions to science. Society members have included such illustrious names as Darwin, Newton, Leibniz, and Francis Bacon, to name a few. The volume's 23 contributors are both uniformly excellent and remarkable for their diversity. For example, novelist Margaret Atwood writes a very personal piece about the image of the scientist and its sometime appearance as the 'mad scientist.' Science historian Paul Davies writes about the effects on Western society of the realization that we are not the center of the universe. Biologist Richard Dawkins opines about the revolutionary nature of Darwin's discoveries, and science fiction writer Gregory Benford contemplates the meaning of time. The wide array of scientific disciplines, including genetics, climate change, physics, and engineering, are each placed in a fresh and thought-provoking social and historical context. Bryson's name will bring readers in, but the real reward is fine writers writing about serious science in an accessible, good-natured style. It is a worthy celebration of the Royal Society. Color illus. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Bill Bryson is as amusing as ever... As a celebration of modern science, Seeing Furtheris a worthy tribute." Booklist
"This is a commemorative, collector's item with world-class contributors, worth acquiring for that reason alone." Library Journal
"These essays from a gathering of bell-clear writers and thinkers...cover a swath of the Society's activities.... Throughout the book runs a sharp humanism.... Premium vest-pocket histories of science." Kirkus Reviews
From the Royal Society, a peerless collection of all-new science writing
Bill Bryson, who explored all — or at least a great deal of — current scientific knowledge in A Short History of Nearly Everything, now turns his attention to the history of that knowledge. As editor of Seeing Further, he has rounded up an extraordinary roster of scientists who write and writers who know science in order to celebrate 350 years of the Royal Society, Britain's scientific national academy. The result is an encyclopedic survey of the history, philosophy and current state of science, written in an accessible and inspiring style by some of today's most important writers.
The contributors include Margaret Atwood, Steve Jones, Richard Dawkins, James Gleick, Richard Holmes, and Neal Stephenson, among many others, on subjects ranging from metaphysics to nuclear physics, from the threatened endtimes of flu and climate change to our evolving ideas about the nature of time itself, from the hidden mathematics that rule the universe to the cosmological principle that guides Star Trek.
The collection begins with a brilliant introduction from Bryson himself, who says: It is impossible to list all the ways that the Royal Society has influenced the world, but you can get some idea by typing in 'Royal Society' as a word search in the electronic version of the Dictionary of National Biography. That produces 218 pages of results — 4,355 entries, nearly as many as for the Church of England (at 4,500) and considerably more than for the House of Commons (3,124) or House of Lords (2,503).
As this book shows, the Royal Society not only produces the best scientists and science, it also produces and inspires the very best science writing.
From the Royal Society comes a peerless collection of all-new science writing. Contributors include Margaret Atwood, Steve Jones, Richard Dawkins, James Gleick, Richard Holmes, and Neal Stephenson writing on subjects ranging from metaphysics to nuclear physics.
“Bryson is as amusing as ever….As a celebration of 350 years of modern science, [Seeing Further] it is a worthy tribute.”
About the Author
Bill Bryson's bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Bill Bryson's African Diaryand A Short History of Nearly Everything. He lives in Norfolk, England, with his wife and children.
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