- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the Worldby Laura J Snyder
Synopses & Reviews
The Philosophical Breakfast Club recounts the life and work of four men who met as students at Cambridge University: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. Recognizing that they shared a love of science (as well as good food and drink) they began to meet on Sunday mornings to talk about the state of science in Britain and the world at large. Inspired by the great 17th century scientific reformer and political figure Francis Bacon—another former student of Cambridge—the Philosophical Breakfast Club plotted to bring about a new scientific revolution. And to a remarkable extent, they succeeded, even in ways they never intended.
Historian of science and philosopher Laura J. Snyder exposes the political passions, religious impulses, friendships, rivalries, and love of knowledge—and power—that drove these extraordinary men. Whewell (who not only invented the word “scientist,” but also founded the fields of crystallography, mathematical economics, and the science of tides), Babbage (a mathematical genius who invented the modern computer), Herschel (who mapped the skies of the Southern Hemisphere and contributed to the invention of photography), and Jones (a curate who shaped the science of economics) were at the vanguard of the modernization of science.
This absorbing narrative of people, science and ideas chronicles the intellectual revolution inaugurated by these men, one that continues to mold our understanding of the world around us and of our place within it. Drawing upon the voluminous correspondence between the four men over the fifty years of their work, Laura J. Snyder shows how friendship worked to spur the men on to greater accomplishments, and how it enabled them to transform science and help create the modern world.
"A Victorian science expert at St. John's University, Snyder offers a four-in-one biography of 19th-century scientists William Whewell, a polymath whose expertise ranged from geology to moral philosophy; Charles Babbage, credited with inventing the first computer; John Herschel, a noted astronomer and mathematician; and Richard Jones, who created the academic discipline of economics. In 1812, when academic science was still a backward field, the four Cambridge students founded the Philosophical Breakfast Club, devoted to scientific discussion. Snyder provides insights into their personal lives, their myriad professional accomplishments, and their influence on science and economics. She underscores the importance of their accomplishments by placing them into modern context, for example, pointing out that Jones's empirically based economics, which placed economics in a larger social and political context, is in vogue again. Snyder also describes Whewell's important integration of religion and Darwinism. Each of the four figures is a worthy subject in his own right, and by combining their stories Snyder provides the right balance of biography and science. It also allows Snyder to discuss a wide range of scientific developments that are sufficiently modern to appeal to today's readers. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
An expert on Victorian science and culture, Snyder (Philosophy, St. John's University) presents the surprisingly engrossing story of four men--Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones--who met as students at Cambridge University, and then went on to have a tremendous effect of the development of science in the 19th century. Meeting for decades in a kind of Sunday brunch, the four talked about the then-current state of science and about the best ways to conduct scientific research. Drawing on five decades of letters between the men, Snyder shows how they helped to change the "natural philosopher" into the modern scientist, and (not so incidentally) helped found the disciplines of crystallography, mathematical economics, and modern computing, and make major contributions to astronomy and photography. Packed with good stories and anecdotes, as well with as good science and history, this is a book that can reach out to readers who would not ordinarily be interested in reading about the lives of four British scientists who, other than Babbage, are largely forgotten. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
An expert on Victorian science and culture, Fulbright scholar Laura J. Snyder just completed a term as president of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science. She is associate professor of philosophy at St. John's University and the author of Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like