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Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science, and Serendipity 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0199582662
ISBN-10: 0199582661
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Review from previous edition: "Engagingly written, appealingly presented and historically insightful...the judges agreed that in its admirably broad scope, its historical and historiographical depth and its engaging re-presentation of the best of recent scholarship, the 2011 Dingle Prize should be awarded to Patricia Fara for Science: A Four Thousand Year History." --Dingle Prize Judges

Review from previous edition: "Fara's book could not be more wide-ranging, beginning [with] the quest to take the story of science as far back as she possibly can, and ending bang up to date. The content is ambitious, judiciously and fairly handled...The narrative moves forward in an engaging way, while the enthusiasm and opinions of the author are never far from the surface. It is a book to provoke thought and argument. An impressive achievement." --Jim Bennett, BBC History Magazine

"For a very long time, reputable historians of science have lacked the desire, the knowledge, or the nerve to undertake a book like this -- an attempt to survey the development of science from Antiquity to the present, notably including non-European materials. Patricia Fara has succeeded: Science is an elegant and compact creative synthesis of the piecemeal researches of generations of academic historians. It deserves the widest possible readership." --Steven Shapin, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard, and author of The Scientific Revolution

"Dismantling popular myths, taking a truly global view and dispensing with false idols, Fara's highly readable survey of science's histories is a breath of fresh air. She unerringly pinpoints the defining moods of each age, treating the past with respect and the present with discernment. This wonderfully literate book tells a story that is far, far more interesting than the tidy fictions of hindsight." --Philip Ball, Consultant Editor of Nature

"Patricia Fara has written a fascinating account." --John Gribbin, Literary Review

"Wide-ranging and provocative... Romps through history at a terrific rate." --The Economist 11/06/2009

"Epic history of science" --Jo Marchant, New Scientist

"An impressive and commendable effort to square the circle, to tell science's history, from the beginning." --Martin D. Gordin, Science

"An engaging book...Fara is to be commended for stepping back - way back - to assess the history of science in its entirety." --Robert J Malone, excutive director of the History of Science Society

About the Author


Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is the Senior Tutor of Clare College. A specialist in Enlightenment England, her main passion is explaining to non-academic audiences why the history of science is so fascinating and so important. Her most recent book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009), won the Dingle prize awarded by the British Society for the History of Science. Her other successful publications include Newton: The Making of Genius (2002), Sex, Botany and Empire (2003) and Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment (2004). An experienced public lecturer, she appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programmes such as In our Time and Start the Week. She also contributes articles and reviews to many journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Prospect, Nature, and the Times Literary Supplement.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199582661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199582662
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.2 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,964,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By William P. Palmer on May 2, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Review of ‘Erasmus Darwin: Sex, science, and serendipity’ by Patricia Fara

CITATION: Fara, P. (2012). Erasmus Darwin: Sex, science, and serendipity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reviewer: Dr William P. Palmer

I have enjoyed reading this book ‘Erasmus Darwin: sex, science, and serendipity’ which I had started, wrongly expecting it to be a straightforward biography of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The standard features of a biography are present, though only as a bare summary of his life (pp. 19 – 29). The book is however 258 pages long or 322 pages if notes, appendix and index are included.

Patricia Fara explores the life of Erasmus Darwin through the three major poems that he wrote and through a poem called ‘The love of triangles’ that mocked Darwin, his poetry and his politics. Darwin was on the left of the politics of his time, having some sympathy with the ideals of the French revolution, with industrialization, with the independence of the American colonies and with the abolition of slavery. His views appear from time to time in his poetry though they are hidden within stories of classical mythology and also in the newly emerging system of botanical classification. His poetical style appears pompous but distinctive though it was easily mocked by the politically powerful authors of ‘The love of triangles’.

He was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham which included Josiah Wedgewood James Watt, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestley and unofficially Joseph Wright of Derby with the lives of some of these men and others within the Lunar Society becoming a part of the story. The three poems discussed within the biography are ‘The loves of plants’, ‘The economy of vegetation’ and ‘The temple of nature’.
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