From Publishers Weekly
The subtitle is an outline for the book's contents: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius
. Born a half century after Newton's death, Young (1773–1829) disproved the great scientist's theory of light, demonstrating with a now-classic refraction experiment that light travels in waves. He showed how the eye is able to change its depth of focus by becoming more or less convex, and was the first to conceive the correct theory of color vision (which wasn't proved experimentally until 1959) and to accurately explain colorblindness and astigmatism. In between all of this, he was a practicing doctor and made substantial contributions to translating the Rosetta Stone. In our age of specialization, it's inconceivable that one man could make breakthroughs in so many different fields; toward the end of his life, Young wrote 63 articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica
. Robinson (The Story of Writing
) shines a light on this largely forgotten polymath, relying on Young's letters and writings as well as substantial works by his contemporaries to put Young's achievements in context. This thoroughly researched biography is as scattered in topics as Young's varied interests, but Robinson successfully portrays a genius who lived in a time when the fields of knowledge were fertile for new discoveries. (Jan.)
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"Meticulously researched, superbly written, richly illustrated and imbued with an enthusiasm for its subject that does not flag even when analysing some of Young's most abstruse studies. This book should be cherished by all who value originality, breadth of knowledge and intellectual passion." -- New Scientist
"Andrew Robinson must be congratulated for his mastery of some dauntingly diverse material." -- Daily Telegraph
"Robinson's success in condensing his almost limitless scholarship for a general reader is commendable." -- FT Magazine
"This is a fascinating book" -- BBC History Magazine
"Young's fascinating life is detailed here in a highly readable way, revealing a man who stood by his beliefs even when the leading lights around him poured scorn on his ideas." -- Good Book Guide
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