A Science Odyssey: 100 Years of Discovery

Charles Flowers, Author
Charles Flowers, Author William Morrow & Company $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-688-15196-6
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
A companion book to a PBS-TV series of the same name scheduled for January, this is a far-ranging survey that lucidly covers the 20th century's scientific breakthroughs in astronomy, space travel, evolution, medicine, physics, psychology, transportation, chemistry and communications. Seemingly not intended to provide in-depth explorations of each field, the book is rich in anecdote and personal history--about how customs officials destroyed Marconi's strange device because they suspected the early radio prototype of being a bomb, for instance, or about the exclamation of a prisoner used in successful experiments linking pellagra to a poor diet: ""I have been through a thousand hells."" If there is a unifying theme, Flowers, author or coauthor of 44 books, finds it to be the technological anatomy of the modern age--a corpus that includes the Chrysler building, the atomic bomb and ""transgenic"" pigs who may someday supply organs to humans. While written in clear, somewhat conversational prose, the book occasionally reads like a textbook--perhaps intentionally so, as the TV show will probably make it into the classroom. From the Internet to insulin, Flowers manages to convey the breadth and whirlwind pace of the century's scientific achievement. Photos (60 color, 90 b&w). (Jan.)
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