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The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science
RICHARD HOLMES

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
132 reviews (2009) (576p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Winner
New York Times® Best Nonfiction Books
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction Finalist

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Book Description
A riveting history of the men and women whose discoveries and inventions at the end of the eighteenth century gave birth to the Romantic Age of Science.

When young Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, he hoped to discover Paradise. Inspired by the scientific ferment sweeping through Britain, the botanist had sailed with Captain Cook on his first Endeavour voyage in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes's original evocation of what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.

Brilliantly conceived as a relay of scientific stories, The Age of Wonder investigates the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of "dynamic science," of an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives dominate the book: William Herschel and his sister Caroline, whose dedication to the study of the stars forever changed the public conception of the solar system, the Milky Way, and the meaning of the universe; and Humphry Davy, who, with only a grammar school education stunned the scientific community with his near-suicidal gas experiments that led to the invention of the miners' lamp and established British chemistry as the leading professional science in Europe. This age of exploration extended to great writers and poets as well as scientists, all creators relishing in moments of high exhilaration, boundary-pushing and discovery.

Holmes's extraordinary evocation of this age of wonder shows how great ideas and experiments—both successes and failures—were born of singular and often lonely dedication, and how religious faith and scientific truth collide. He has written a book breathtaking in its originality, its storytelling energy, and its intellectual significance.


Amazon.com Review
Amazon Exclusive: Oliver Sacks on The Age of Wonder

Oliver Sacks is the author of Musicophilia, Awakenings,The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and many other books, for which he has received numerous awards, including the Hawthornden Prize, a Polk Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and lives in New York City, where he is a practicing neurologist. Read his exclusive guest review of The Age of Wonder:

I am a Richard Holmes addict. He is an incomparable biographer, but in The Age of Wonder, he rises to new heights and becomes the biographer not of a single figure, but of an entire unique period, when artist and scientist could share common aims and ambitions and a common language--and together create a "romantic," humanist science. We are once again on the brink of such an age, when science and art will come together in new and powerful ways. For this we could have no better model than the lives of William and Caroline Herschel and Humphry Davy, whose dedication and scientific inventiveness were combined with a deep sense of wonder and poetry in the universe. Only Holmes, who is so deeply versed in the people and culture of eighteenth-century science, could tell their story with such verve and resonance for our own time.

(Photo © Elena Seibert)


Other Award Winning Books by Richard Holmes
Coleridge by Richard Holmes
2 reviews (1999) (357p) (Amazon)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Coleridge: Darker Reflections, 1804-1834 by Richard Holmes
14 reviews (1999) (656p) (NYTimes Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
FOOTSTEPS: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer by Richard Holmes
7 reviews (1985) (292p) (NYTimes Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Richard Holmes Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 2  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact