The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World

Laura J. Snyder, Broadway, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-0-7679-3048-2
A Victorian science expert at St. John’s University, Snyder offers a four-in-one biography of 19th-century scientists William Whewell, a polymath whose expertise ranged from geology to moral philosophy; Charles Babbage, credited with inventing the first computer; John Herschel, a noted astronomer and mathematician; and Richard Jones, who created the academic discipline of economics. In 1812, when academic science was still a backward field, the four Cambridge students founded the Philosophical Breakfast Club, devoted to scientific discussion. Snyder provides insights into their personal lives, their myriad professional accomplishments, and their influence on science and economics. She underscores the importance of their accomplishments by placing them into modern context, for example, pointing out that Jones’s empirically based economics, which placed economics in a larger social and political context, is in vogue again. Snyder also describes Whewell’s important integration of religion and Darwinism. Each of the four figures is a worthy subject in his own right, and by combining their stories Snyder provides the right balance of biography and science. It also allows Snyder to discuss a wide range of scientific developments that are sufficiently modern to appeal to today’s readers. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 332 pages - 978-0-307-71617-0
Paperback - 439 pages - 978-0-7679-3049-9
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