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The Age of Wonder

How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

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Hardcover published by Pantheon (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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The Age of Wonder is a colorful and utterly absorbing 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 in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes's thrilling evocation of the second scientific revolution. Through the lives of William Herschel and his sister Caroline, who forever changed the public conception of the solar system; of Humphry Davy, whose near-suicidal gas experiments revolutionized chemistry; and of the great Romantic writers, from Mary Shelley to Coleridge and Keats, who were inspired by the scientific breakthroughs of their day, Holmes brings to life the era in which we first realized both the awe-inspiring and the frightening possibilities of science—an era whose consequences are with us still.
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The Age of Wonder is a colorful and utterly absorbing 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 in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes's thrilling evocation of the second scientific revolution. Through the lives of William Herschel and his sister Caroline, who forever changed the public conception of the solar system; of Humphry Davy, whose near-suicidal gas experiments revolutionized chemistry; and of the great Romantic writers, from Mary Shelley to Coleridge and Keats, who were inspired by the scientific breakthroughs of their day, Holmes brings to life the era in which we first realized both the awe-inspiring and the frightening possibilities of science—an era whose consequences are with us still.
Product Details
Hardcover (576 pages)
Published: July 14, 2009
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Pantheon
ISBN: 9780375422225
Other books byRichard Holmes
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    Falling Upwards
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    **Kirkus Best Books of the Year (2013)** **Time Magazine 10 Top Nonfiction Books of 2013** **The New Republic Best Books of 2013** In this heart-lifting chronicle, Richard Holmes, author of the best-selling The Age of Wonder, follows the pioneer generation of balloon aeronauts, the daring and enigmatic men and women who risked their lives to take to the air (or fall into the sky). Why they did it, what their contemporaries thought of them, and how their flights revealed the secrets of our planet is a compelling adventure that only Holmes could tell.   His accounts of the early Anglo-French balloon rivalries, the crazy firework flights of the beautiful Sophie Blanchard, the long-distance voyages of the American entrepreneur John Wise and French photographer Felix Nadar are dramatic and exhilarating. Holmes documents as well the balloons used to observe the horrors of modern battle during the Civil War (including a flight taken by George Armstrong Custer); the legendary tale of at least sixty-seven manned balloons that escaped from Paris (the first successful civilian airlift in history) during the Prussian siege of 1870-71; the high-altitude exploits of James Glaisher (who rose) seven miles above the earth without oxygen, helping to establish the new science of meteorology); and how Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne felt the imaginative impact of flight and allowed it to soar in their work.   A seamless fusion of history, art, science, biography, and the metaphysics of flights, Falling Upwards explores the interplay between technology and imagination. And through the strange allure of these great balloonists, it offers a masterly portrait of human endeavor, recklessness, and vision. (With 24 pages of color illustrations, and black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

    Falling Upwards

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    **Time Magazine 10 Top Nonfiction Books of 2013** **The New Republic Best Books of 2013** **Kirkus Best Books of the Year (2013)** In a dazzling fusion of history, art, science, and biography, Falling Upwards resurrects the daring men and women who first risked their lives to take to the air in balloons. Richard Holmes gives us another of his unforgettable portraits of human endeavor, recklessness, and vision, weaving together exhilarating accounts of early balloon rivalries, pioneering ascents over Victorian cities, and astonishing long-distance voyages. The terrifying high-altitude flights of James Glaisher helped to establish the science of meteorology as well as the notion of a fragile planet, while balloons were also used to observe the horrors of modern battle during the American Civil War. Here too are the many writers—Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, and more—who felt the imaginative impact of flight and allowed it to soar in their work. Holmes tells the history of ballooning from every angle—scientific to poetic—through the adventurers and entrepreneurs, scientists and escapists, heroes and fools who were possessed by the longing to be airborne. (With 24 pages of color illustrations, and black-and-white illustrations throughout.)

    Shelley: The Pursuit

    Shelley: The Pursuit
    Shelley: The Pursuit is the book with which Richard Holmes—the finest literary biographer of our day—made his name. Dispensing with the long-established Victorian picture of Shelley as a blandly ethereal character, Holmes projects a startling image of "a darker and more earthly, crueler and more capable figure." Expelled from college, disowned by his aristocratic father, driven from England, Shelley led a life marked from its beginning to its early end by a violent rejection of society; he embraced rebellion and disgrace without thought of the cost to himself or to others. Here we have the real Shelley—radical agitator, atheist, apostle of free love, but above all a brilliant and uncompromising poetic innovator, whose life and work have proved an essential inspiration to poets as varied as W.B. Yeats and Allen Ginsberg.

    Sidetracks

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    With this collection of short and fascinating biographical pieces, the award-winning biographer of Coleridge and Shelley offers a fascinating glimpse into the mysterious art of biography. When researching, Richard Holmes has often become captivated by figures peripheral to his main subject, literary forays that he couldn’t resist. These tales–the forbidden love of John Stuart Mill, the bizarre novel of Oscar Wilde’ s tragic grand-uncle, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s nightmarish yet cathartic final trip to Paris–are part of what comprises Sidetracks, a marvelously original that includes letters and travelogues, radio plays, essays, and minature biographies. This book is a rare literary feast and an exploration of the creative processes of one of our most preeminent biographers. BONUS MATERIAL: This ebook edition includes an excerpt from Richard Holmes's Falling Upwards.

Favorite QuotesFROM THIS BOOK
  • In my first chemistry class, at the age of fourteen, I successfully precipitated a single crystal of mineral salts.  (Prologue)

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  • On 13 April 1769, young Joseph Banks, official botanist to HM Bark Endeavour, first clapped eyes on the island of Tahiti, 17 degrees South, 149 degrees West.

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  • And that is how this book might possibly end.

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