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Ingenious Pursuits


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About the Author

Lisa Jardine is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, and Honorary Fellow of King's College, Cambridge.


Jardine, a Renaissance scholar at the University of London, exposits on the inventors and polymaths that drove the scientific revolution. She seeks to show that the convergence of the humanities and natural sciences drove technological innovation in order to solve very real problems of the age, such as maritime travel for wars and trade, and the need for accurate timepieces. In the prolog and epilog, Jardine attempts to show contemporary examples of this symbiosis between arts and sciences. Though certain continental scientists are mentioned, the focus is really on the British, particularly the Royal Society in London. A "cast of characters" is appended to give thumbnail biographies of natural scientists, both major and minor. One small problem: her vignette approach is sometimes confusing, as the loose narrative loops back to the same events (e.g., the Great Fire in London in 1666) in different chapters. Appropriate for both academic and large public libraries.Ă„Wade Lee, Univ. of Toledo Libs., OH Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

How do periods of great intellectual energy come about? Why are major discoveries made at certain historical moments? To answer such questions, Jardine (Worldly Goods; coauthor of Hostage to Fortune, a biography of Francis Bacon, Forecasts, Apr. 26) studies the intellectual community of late-17th-century London, beautifully evoking the excitement accompanying that period's major inventions and discoveries. Jardine traces relationships among the most famous figures of the period (e.g., Sir Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren, John Locke) and links their work to a network of scientists and philosophers generated by the founding of the Royal Society in London. A portrait emerges of a community of adventurous and imaginative people interested in science for its contribution to human understanding. Jardine's central contention is that the period was characterized by so much cross-pollination between what we now call the sciences and the humanities that the distinction between the two realms we now take for granted didn't yet exist. The chapters range across a huge body of ideas, discoveries and processes, which turn out to be closely connected: mapping the elliptical orbits of comets; tracing blood circulation; importing rare and remote plants to England; founding Britain's famous museums; inventing air pumps, diving bells, spring watches. The volume's comprehensive catalogue of gizmos and brainstorms comes at the expense of historical analysis, but Jardine gives a memorable account of cultural ferment and individual genius during the scientific revolution. Illustrations. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Robustly written, engagingly illustrated, briskly paced, quirkily detailed, Ingenious Pursuits may seduce readers not otherwise inclined to ponder the genealogy of the scientific enterprise." --The New York Times Book Review

"Jardine's enthusiasm for her subject enlivens the portraits of a diverse assembly of thinkers and their remarkable contributions to modern science." --Science News "Fascinating. . . . Jardine never loses sight of the immediacy and excitement of scientific discovery." --The New Statesman

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