The age of wonder : how the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science Richard Holmes New York : Pantheon Books, c 2008 Hardcover. 1st American ed., later printing. xxi, 552 p.,  p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
A history of some 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 Holmes’s evocation of what emerges for him as an Age of Wonder.
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 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 was exploited by writers and poets as well as scientists, all relishing in moments of high exhilaration, boundary-pushing, discovery and the desire to claim their share of the glory and its rewards.
Holmes’s evocation of this age shows how ideas and experiments — both successes and failures — were born of singular and often lonely dedication, and how religious faith and scientific truth collided through a lack of understanding and the desire for power.