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Acid Tongues and Tranquil Dreamers: Eight Scientific Rivalries That Changed the World Paperback – October 22, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 Reprint edition (October 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380806134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380806133
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,866,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael White is a former science editor of British GQ, as well as previous Director of Scientific Studies at d'Overbroeck's college, Oxford.He is the author of hundreds of articles covering the cutting edge of science, as well as popular and classical music.A consultant for the Discovery Channel series "The Science of the Impossible," White is the author of a dozen books, including bestselling biographies of Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, and Isaac Asimov. He lives with his wife and daughter in London, England.

Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on July 2, 2003
White promotes an eight-round match of leading contenders to explain one of the ways science and technology produce champions. Each match in this series explains how rivalries among scientists developed and what long-term effects the conflicts had for science and for the rest of us. Some of these issues remain almost solely personality clashes, such as the priority question over calculus between Newton and Leibnitz. Others, the choice of AC over DC for electrical power distribution and which nation would be the first to build a nuclear bomb, are meaningful to us all. Offering brief descriptions of the issues and personalities, each of the essays is a good synopsis of the science. The personality sketches are given with a strong emphasis on the contender's childhood where it can be derived. Although the relevance of the childhood foundations seems contrived in most cases, the information provides a "human" background of people who often seem remote from us.
The topics and personalities are so disparate that a general assessment is difficult, if not impossible for this work. To his credit, White has focussed on fundamental questions and not been distracted by side issues. He is at pains to be "fair", avoiding judgmental approaches and emphasising long-term impact of the conflict's resolution. If the personality involved is too obtuse, stubborn or devious to withstand White's scrutiny, he makes it clear that the problem lies with that individual. However, as he admits, he's not the only one doing the judging. Aristotle's views of nature inexplicably dominated Western European thinking for two millennia because his proposed "four basic elements" could be merged with nearly any philosophy. Only reason backed by empirical evidence would overcome this long tradition.
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For me, this book was nothing short of an absolutely excellent read. In fact, I was disappointed when I reached the end; I wanted more such stories. The author discusses eight rivalries peppered over the past three and a half centuries - from the mid-seventeenth to the dawn of the twenty-first. The author's writing style is very captivating. It is also friendly, clear, lively and highly accessible.

The only criticism that I have pertains to Chapter 5 (concerning the Manhattan Project). I have read a great many books on this topic - both technical and historical. Based on their content, I found a few statements made in this chapter to be misleading if not simply wrong. But despite this shortcoming, this book does contain a wealth of highly fascinating information; I learned quite a bit from it. This work can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone; however, I believe that science enthusiasts would relish it the most.
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Learn about some of the science and technology that shaped history through the intense stories of serious rivalries. The author also discusses some of the psychology and benefits of competition.

You can read the chapters in any order - start with your favorite subject and work your way through. Accessible to a wide audience.

The topics are very well researched - huge bibliography and index to help you learn more.

Highly recommended, especially for a science or history class.
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This was a great book on scientific history. It may be a little hard for completely non-technical people to follow. However, the "scientific rivalries" theory is more of an organizing principal than a well-developed theory. That's okay. The matching of rivals keeps it interesting and memorable.
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