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The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes

The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes is a dazzling portrait of the age of great scientific discovery and a groundbreaking achievement.

It 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.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and winner of the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, Richard Holmes, the acclaimed biographer of Coleridge and Shelley here explores the scientific ferment that swept through the Romantic era, through the portraits of 3 remarkable scientific friendships: astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, chemists Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday, and the medical scientists John Abernethy and William Lawrence.

Holmes blurs the line between science and the arts in the most appealing and accessible way. Rich with detail, the writing is consistently vivid and at times as gripping as a thriller.

About the Author

Biographer Richard Holmes was born in London, England on 5 November 1945 and educated at Downside School and Churchill College, Cambridge. His first book, Shelley:The Pursuit, was published in 1974 and won a Somerset Maugham Award. The first volume of his biography of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge: Early Visions, was published in 1989 and won the Whitbread Book of the Year award. Dr Johnson & Mr Savage (1993), an account of Johnson’s undocumented friendship with the notorious poet Richard Savage, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography) in 1993. The second volume of his study of Coleridge, Coleridge: Darker Reflections, was published in 1998. It won the Duff Cooper Prize, the Heinemann Award and was shortlisted for the first Samuel Johnson Prize awarded in 1999. Richard Holmes writes and reviews regularly for various journals and newspapers, including the New York Review of Books. His most recent book, Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer (2000), continues the exploration of his own highly original biographical method that he first wrote about in Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985). He is also editor of a new series of editions of classic English biographies that includes work by Samuel Johnson, Daniel Defoe and William Godwin. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded an OBE in 1992. He was awarded an honorary Litt.D. in 2000 by the University of East Anglia, where he was appointed Professor of Biographical Studies in September 2001.

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