The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

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Synopsis

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.

BONUS MATERIAL: This ebook edition includes an excerpt from Richard Holmes's Falling Upwards.
 

About Richard Holmes

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Richard Holmes is Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia, and editor of the Harper Perennial series Classic Biographies launched in 2004. His is a Fellow of the British Academy, has honorary doctorates from UEA and the Tavistock Institute, and was awarded an OBE in 1992.His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year, and 'Dr Johnson & Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections', won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He has published two studies of European biography, 'Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer' in 1985, and 'Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer' in 2000. His most recent book 'The Romantic Poets and their Circle' was published by the National Portrait Gallery in 2005. He lives in London and Norwich with the novelist Rose Tremain.
 
Published July 1, 2009 by Vintage. 576 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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While partaking of nitrous oxide with acquaintances, he extolled the glories of science: “I dream of Science restoring to Nature what Luxury, what Civilization have stolen from her—pure hearts, the forms of angels, bosoms beautiful, and panting with Joy & Hope.” Davy may have had a brilliant scie...

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The New York Times

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That word had not been coined during most of the era that will now be known, thanks to Richard Holmes’s amazingly ambitious, buoyant new fusion of history, art, science, philosophy and biography, as “The Age of Wonder.” And Mr. Holmes’s excitement at fusing long-familiar events and personages int...

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The New York Times

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The twin energies of scientific curiosity and poetic invention pulsate through this study of the Romantic generation’s “second scientific revolution.”

Jul 19 2009 | Read Full Review of The Age of Wonder: How the Ro...

The Guardian

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On 1 December 1783, a crowd of 400,000 Parisians - half the city's population - gathered in the Tuileries Gardens to watch a scientific first: a manned ascent in a hydrogen balloon.

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The Guardian

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Each jolt in perception makes us see the familiar map of our lives differently and revaluate our place in the universe The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Sci...

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The Guardian

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The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop ...

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The Guardian

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The Age of Wonder : How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop ...

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BC Books

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Then it not only talks about but also gives vivid drawings of Davy's early lamps to minimize the countless explosions occurring in England's coal mines due to explosive gases uncovered while mining.

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AV Club

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In 1974, Richard Holmes announced his arrival as one of the Romantic era’s best biographers with 800-plus pages on Shelley;

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The Washington Post

Richard Holmes is one of England's most admired biographers, his particular area of expertise being the romantic era in England and France.

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The Telegraph

Science was becoming more professional, and by 1840 the term "scientist" - proposed by analogy with "artist", and bitterly contested by some of the old guard - had emerged to describe the footsoldiers in the new army of knowledge.

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The Telegraph

Building on a generation of revisionist scholarship that has been barely visible beyond the groves of academe, Holmes triumphantly shows that the Romantic age was one of symbiosis rather than opposition, in which scientists such as Sir Humphry Davy were also poets and poets such as Coleridge had ...

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Christian Science Monitor

In a time when a word as shaggy as “romantic” has been denuded of its rich and contradictory foliage of significance, it may be difficult for readers to appreciate the ironies at work in The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes’s history of science and culture in the early 19th century.

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London Review of Books

He describes what the nights of watching were like, the two unable to communicate except by shouts or, eventually, by a speaking tube, coded rope-pulls and bells, because while William was high above on the observation platform, Caroline stayed below with star maps and astronomical clocks, record...

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Bookmarks Magazine

The Topic: Starting with botanist Joseph Banks's 1769 arrival in Tahiti and ending with Charles Darwin's trip to the Galapagos in 1831, The Age of Wonder offers a group portrait of British scientists in an era-the late 18th and early 19th centuries-that Holmes claims was dominated not only by a ...

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Literary Review

After ensconcing himself with his wife and eccentric sister in his Soho house - from whence, writes Holmes, 'his gaze swept steadily round the globe like some vast, enquiring lighthouse beam' - the increasingly portly and gout-ridden Banks never again sailed the globe but promoted the careers of ...

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EE Times

I have read many books on scientists over the ages, and most of the characters in this book have been short changed in this genre of literature.

May 16 2012 | Read Full Review of The Age of Wonder: How the Ro...

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