From the bestselling author of Science: A History comes the enthralling story of a revolution that shook the world. Seventeenth-century England was racked by civil war, plague and fire; a world ruled by superstition and ignorance. A series of meetings of 'natural philosophers' in Oxford and London saw the beginning of a new method of thinking based on proof and experiment. John Gribbin's gripping, colourful account of this unparalleled time of discovery explores the impact of the Royal Society, culminating with Isaac Newton's revolutionary description of the universe and Edmund Halley's prediction of the return of a comet in 1759. This compelling book shows the triumph not as the work of one isolated genius, but of a Fellowship.
In his latest book, astrophysicist and veteran science writer Gribbin (In Search of Schr dinger's Cat) sweeps away the dust of historical distance to offer a detailed look into the lives and obsessions of the men at the heart of the scientific revolution and the birth of the Royal Society: "the right people, in the right place, at the right time." Italy, says Gribbin, would have birthed the scientific revolution, building on Galileo's efforts, but for the stifling interference of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile William Gilbert was studying magnetism in England and advocating the use of hands-on methods experimentation countering the rigid, traditional Aristotelian view that pure thought was enough to understand the workings of the universe. The value of testing hypotheses through experimentation was reinforced by Francis Bacon and created a new generation of thinkers, led by Christopher Wren and Robert Boyle, who created the Royal Society. At first the society was financially dependent on wealthy amateur scientists, but soon Robert Hooke's experiments in physics and chemistry made the society justly famous. Isaac Newton "completed the task of turning a somewhat dilettante gentleman's talking shop into a truly learned society." Gribbin is an ideal and entertaining narrator for this lively story of intellectual discovery and brotherhood. Illus.