Book of the Week: The Age of Wonder 13-10-2008 - 17-10-2008
Douglas Hodge reads Richard Holmes' account of the scientific ferment that swept through Britain in the late-18th century.
The book opens with Joseph Banks, botanist on Captain Cook's first Endeavour voyage, stepping onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, hoping to discover Paradise. Many other voyages of discovery swiftly follow, including the fantastical first balloon flights and the discoveries of the chemist Humphry Davy, who went on to establish British chemistry as the leading professional science in Europe.
Holmes, who introduces the series, also explores the startling impact of discovery on great writers and poets, such as Mary Shelley, Coleridge, Byron and Keats. With his trademark sense of the human drama, he shows how great ideas and experiments are born out of lonely passion, how scientific discoveries (and errors) are made, how intense relationships are forged and broken by research and how religious faith and scientific truth collide. The result is breathtaking in its originality, its story-telling energy and, not least, in its intellectual significance for the contemporary reader.
1/5 Joseph Banks, the botanist on Captain Cook's first Endeavour voyage, steps onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, hoping to discover Paradise.
2/5 The invention of the hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783 led to a spate of crowd-pulling spectacles, and the fierce rivalry of the first cross-Channel 'aeronauts'.
3/5 The impact of the discovery of electricity and how it affected the debate about the nature of life's vitality and the force of the soul.
4/5 Sir Humphry Davy's application of chemistry to solving the problem of deadly gas explosions in mines.
5/5 By the turn of the 19th century, the developments made in the fields of physics and chemistry had led to a growing debate about the role of science and the question of what to call those who practised it.
Abridged and produced by Jill Waters
Type : mpeg 1 layer III
Bitrate : 128
Mode : joint stereo
Frequency : 44100 Hz
Length : 01:08:51
Encoder : FhG
Source : BBC iPlayer
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