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Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society Paperback – November 8, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0061999772 ISBN-10: 0061999776 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061999776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061999772
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) presents a remarkable collection of essays celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of London and its many contributions to science. Society members have included such illustrious names as Darwin, Newton, Leibniz, and Francis Bacon, to name a few. The volume's 23 contributors are both uniformly excellent and remarkable for their diversity. For example, novelist Margaret Atwood writes a very personal piece about the image of the scientist and its sometime appearance as the "mad scientist." Science historian Paul Davies writes about the effects on Western society of the realization that we are not the center of the universe. Biologist Richard Dawkins opines about the revolutionary nature of Darwin's discoveries, and science fiction writer Gregory Benford contemplates the meaning of time. The wide array of scientific disciplines, including genetics, climate change, physics, and engineering, are each placed in a fresh and thought-provoking social and historical context. Bryson's name will bring readers in, but the real reward is fine writers writing about serious science in an accessible, good-natured style. It is a worthy celebration of the Royal Society. Color illus. (Nov.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A Festschrift for the 350th anniversary of Britain’s Royal Society, this abundantly illustrated volume is not an institutional history. Rather, its 22 contributors address aspects of the scientific enterprise that a brain trust once headed by Isaac Newton has advanced so much. Several authors dwell on distinctions between theory and experiment, or between pure versus applied science. Another group tackles science’s perennial challenge of communicating to the public. Newton biographer James Gleick amusingly describes the Royal Society’s original journal as a cross between Physical Review and Ripley’s Believe It or Not; scientist Stephen Schneider and apocalypse-novelist Maggie Gee relate their efforts to focus attention on climate change; and science historian Simon Schaffer recounts a 1781 Royal Society controversy about Franklin’s lightning rod to suggest how the public should react when scientists disagree. A volume that enlists novelist Margaret Atwood to expatiate on fiction’s stock character of the mad scientist has something for everyone; that this one also showcases such popular scientist-authors as Martin Rees, Richard Dawkins, Richard Fortey, and Paul Davies ensures it will make a splash in the new-books display. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Interesting book in that it is not a Bill Bryson book.
Robert Sparrenberger
Normally I finish one of his books in a few days but after a couple of weeks of trying to read this book, I just cannot get into it.
Amy
I have read many articles, even books, by the chapter authors in this collection but the articles in here are awful.
Reed J. Richmond

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Evan E. Fusco MD on January 19, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love Bill Bryson, have read most of his books and am actively trying to finish reading his others. So, I eagerly downloaded Seeing Further as soon as it came out eagerly anticipating Bryson's wit and writing style....and was disappointed quickly.

The intro is by Bryson, but not anything particularly witty.

But, I'd purchased the book, I like sciency stuff and was interested in learning more about the Royal Society, so I persevered.

And, ultimately, I'm glad I did. It's a nice updated on the current state of science in the world. There are discussions of String Theory as well as updates on evolution concepts. There are interesting discussions of dead scientists as well as living ones. All the various vignettes are written by scientists and/or science writers, therefore the quality of the various stories vary depending upon whether the writer is more writer or more scientist.

All in all it's a worthwhile science book. But it isn't a Bryson book by any means.
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98 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery & the Genius of the Royal Society with Bill Bryson as the editor is a marvelous book. I have read thousands of times that the pace of science and innovation causes knowledge to double and replace itself at an alarmingly fast rate. Of course, it's not in the actual doubling of knowledge that a problem exists but in the fact that it is virtually impossible for us to keep track of that very same new knowledge. However, even in a world that is creating so much new knowledge it is reassuring to consider that the Royal Society is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year. That is a marvelous accomplishment and to be honest I can't name many institutions that have been around that long.

Bill Bryson is the perfect person to have headed this project. As a general science writer Bryson is aware of how important science and the Royal Society has been to the development of modern society. Then there is the rather eclectic group of contributors that have each offered a discussion on the development of science. Authors include James Gleick, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Wertheim, Neal Stephenson, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Simon Schaffer, Richard Holmes, Richard Fortey, Richard Dawkins, Henry Petroski, Georgiana Ferry, Steve Jones, Philip Ball, Paul Davies, Ian Stewart, John D. Barrow, Oliver Morton, Maggie Gee, Stephen H. Schneider, Gregory Benford, and Martin Rees. I'd have to admit that Margaret Atwoods discussion of Jonathan Swift's Academy, and Richard Dawkins' Darwin's Five Bridges: The Way to Natural Selection is for me the highlight of the book. However, each and every chapter is eye opening and worthy of your time.
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Format: Hardcover
Bill Bryson's latest book is the story of the founding of the Royal Society of London, a unique group if there ever was one. Founded in 1660, it has done more to advance science than any other institution in the world including all the great English universities, including the great German institutions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries where so much applied science was achieved, and including our finest schools in the early part of this century.

Twelve men got together at Gresham College in London 350 years ago, and together founded a group dedicated to the assistance and promotion of the accumulation of knowledge. Could you imagine the difficulty of keeping such a group together for 3 ½ centuries? There was no endowment to bind them to a common cause, and no lineage of professor and student. There were wars, famine, depressions, and radical changes in government, and yet the society survived, and prospered through it all, based on the need for each of the members to add to the body of knowledge that we all benefit from today.

Bryson (he's the editor) by putting this book together has created a gift for those of us who truly appreciate great books. This story has never been told in anything approaching this kind of quality. From the exquisite artwork and graphics to the selection of contributing writers, it's first class all the way. The basis of the Royal Society was CLARITY OF EXPRESSION. They did not want scholars who were interested in impressing you with their language. It was about the power of their intellectual achievements, but people at the same time had to understand those achievements.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By arpard fazakas on April 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found this book somewhat disappointing. It didn't quite live up to the billing of its title. I expected a book entirely devoted to the history of the Royal Society and the fascinating scientific discoveries its members have produced.

The book starts with an introductory chapter by Bill Bryson, the editor, and then follows with single-chapter contributions from many different authors, some scientists in their own right but the majority science writers, or experts in the history and/or philosophy of science. The introductory chapter describes the founding of the Royal Society and its exalted place in the history of science, and whet my appetite for more details about what the Royal Society has actually done since its founding in 1660. And indeed some of the chapters did focus on this. But many others were only tangentially (if at that) related to the Royal Society, and devoted themselves to well-written but sometimes wordy discourses on various aspects of modern science and its philosophical and sociocultural implications. These may of course interest many readers but in my opinion do not really fulfill the promise of the book's title.

I have read many such treatises over the years, but have become increasingly aware that writing about science, especially branches of science highly dependent on the language of mathematics, can never convey the essence of the topic and are plagued with the pitfalls of trying to translate mathematical grammar and syntax into English. Inevitably they are as much about the personal opinions, however sophisticated and informed, of the author as about the actual business of the science being described. This is particularly true when the topic is the philosophical or sociocultural implications of physics.
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More About the Author

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa. For twenty years he lived in England, where he worked for the Times and the Independent, and wrote for most major British and American publications. His books include travel memoirs (Neither Here Nor There; The Lost Continent; Notes from a Small Island) and books on language (The Mother Tongue; Made in America). His account of his attempts to walk the Appalachian Trail, A Walk in the Woods, was a huge New York Times bestseller. He lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with his wife and his four children.

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