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The Age of Wonder

The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science

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Paperback published by Vintage (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book
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
Paperback (576 pages)
Published: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Vintage
ISBN: 9781400031870
Other books byRichard Holmes
  • Falling Upwards

    Falling Upwards
    How We Took to the Air
    **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.)

    Retreat from Death

    Retreat from Death
    A Soldier on the Somme
    "I was alone in a world gone mad. Death was all around...Useless, filthy death." So wrote George Herbert Hill on the Battle of St. Quentin, which began on March 21, 1918 and consisted of trench mortars, mustard gas, chlorine gas, tear gas and a heavy artillery bombardment--said to be one of the most fierce and devastating of the Great War. Over the course of six days, thousands of British troops lost their lives and yet this would prove to be the turning point of the war--the end was in sight. Hill was just sixteen when he enlisted into the army. After only a few weeks in France, he was in the midst of St. Quentin and the full horrors of trench warfare. Incredibly, he survived--one of the few members of his battalion to do so. After several months at the front, he was gassed and spent the last days of the war in a field hospital. Hill turned nineteen on the day of the armistice. Retreat from Death is the harrowing story based on his experiences.

    In The Footsteps of Churchill

    In The Footsteps of Churchill
    One of the most admired political leaders of all time, Winston Churchill remains an icon four decades after his death. Here, the eminent military historian Richard Holmes offers a remarkable reappraisal of Churchill by examining the early influences that shaped his character. Drawing on sources such as letters between the young Churchill and his parents, Holmes paints the most complete portrait to date of the man who stood up to Hitler and led his people to victory against all odds. From his aristocratic birth to a brilliant but flawed father and a famously beautiful mother, through his struggles at school and his adventures as a cavalry officer in India and the Sudan, Churchill’s extraordinary character is richly illuminated in this vivid biography.

    Sidetracks

    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.

    — submitted by Flag This Quote For Review
  • And that is how this book might possibly end.

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