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The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of Its Greatest Inventors Paperback – August 10, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Scientists

“Essential reading...tells the story of science as a sequence of witty, information-packed tales...complete with humanizing asides, glimpses of the scientist’s personal life and amusing anecdotes.”
—London Sunday Times, Books of the Year

“Excels at making complex science intelligible to the general reader...If you’re looking for a book that captures the personal drama and achievement of science, then look no further.”—The Guardian

“Gripping and entertaining...wonderfully and pleasurably accessible... Much of the history of science reads like a detective story, which in the hands of a skilled narrator like Gribbin makes the description of each new advance appear as an illumination.”—The Independent on Sunday

“Tremendous...moves me to bestow a reviewer’s cliché I long ago vowed never to use: a tour de force.”
—The Spectator

“A splendid book...exposes the factual roots of some of science’s well-known tales (for example, Galileo never dropped weights of different sizes from Pisa’s leaning tower).”—The Economist

“A magnificent history...enormously entertaining.”—The Daily Telegraph


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

A wonderfully readable account of scientifi c development over the past fi ve hundred years, focusing on the lives and achievements of individual scientists, by the bestselling author of In Search of Schrodinger's Cat
In this ambitious new book, John Gribbin tells the stories of the people who have made science, and of the times in which they lived and worked. He begins with Copernicus, during the Renaissance, when science replaced mysticism as a means of explaining the workings of the world, and he continues through the centuries, creating an unbroken genealogy of not only the greatest but also the more obscure names of Western science, a dot-to-dot line linking amateur to genius, and accidental discovery to brilliant deduction.
By focusing on the scientists themselves, Gribbin has written an anecdotal narrative enlivened with stories of personal drama, success and failure. A bestselling science writer with an international reputation, Gribbin is among the few authors who could even attempt a work of this magnitude. Praised as "a sequence of witty, information-packed tales" and "a terrifi c read" by The Times upon its recent British publication, The Scientists breathes new life into such venerable icons as Galileo, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Linus Pauling, as well as lesser lights whose stories have been undeservedly neglected. Filled with pioneers, visionaries, eccentrics and madmen, this is the history of science as it has never been told before.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 646 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 7.11.2004 edition edition (August 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812967887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812967883
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you expect this book to illuminate the lives of natural philosophers and scientists; to detail their idiosyncracies, oddities, obsessions, and personalities; to explore the politics and prevailing social and religious winds of their day -- then this book will be a joy for you to read, and you will delight in its pages.

If you expect this book to describe the thinking of these intellectual forefathers and -mothers of ours; to sort through their theories and how they arrived at them; to paint a big picture of the history of science that enables you to see the overarching themes and trends -- then this book, sadly, will be a disappointment.

There is no doubt that Gribbin has written a tale that is grand in scope, expansive in nature, and overall exciting, enthralling and even downright juicy (who would have thought that the lives of natural philosophers and scientists were filled with such scandal and self-indulgence?). However, one should approach this book with the knowledge that it is more about quirks than quarks, more about natural passions than natural laws, and more about the history of scientific personalities than the history of scientific thought.
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Format: Paperback
This is the book to buy for that teenager who loves the humanities, religion, literature but is AFRAID of science. Astrophysicist John Gribbin writes superbly about the great developments of Western Science from Copernicus to Einstein or Mendel, Darwin, and Watson and Crick. He truly has a gift for explaining the basics of science without burying the reader in mathematics or technical language. The strategy is to explain scientific advances through the lives of the great men who pushed the limits of scientific advances...such as the race to discover the spiral helix structure of DNA or the thought experiments of Farady and Einstein.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book very enlightening. Considering the enormity of the task Gribbin cut out for himself, I was impressed by the achievement. The right amount of information, both personal and scientific, was presented for each scientist. I especially liked the section headings that helped me find my way around when refering to something written earlier. I never got lost in the sea of names and events that usually mark a book of this type. Gribbin's style is highly readable.

I am a science teacher and will be using this in class.
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Format: Paperback
Gribbin's book is entertaining and contains useful insights, but also many oversights. It neglects the contributions of the Greek atomists and Islamic (not to mention other non-Western) science. With respect to the former, Gribbin fails to place in complete and accurate perspective the role of the Church in suppressing acceptance of atomism - insights that Gribbin attributes to Gassendi and others are attributable to the rediscovery of Lucretius' extraordinarily prescient poem "On the Nature of Things." With respect to the latter, the mathematical analysis of celestial movements so essential to Western science owes much to the Arab world. Discussion of the relationship of Hooke to Newton is interesting, but the acrimonious fight with Leibnitz is neglected. Gribbin neglects Newton's belief that God DOES intervene occasionally to correct celestial movements and other natural processes, and he fails to evaluate his "hypotheses non fingo" remark. He gives Bacon very short shrift, despite his importance in the founding of experimental science. Lamarck is ridiculed, but the vindication of some of his ideas by understanding of epigenetics is not mentioned. In summary, Gribbin's The Scientists is good as one of several books if the reader wants to understand the sweep of modern science, but it is insufficient by itself.
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Format: Paperback
Wayne Booth (The Company We Keep) describes a good author as a friend. Well, John Gribbin is definitely a friend. While I do not agree with his mild and barely mentioned aethism, his love of science is heartfelt as he brings it to life through individual human beings.

This is not a dull science book. It has no formulas or math except to explain scientific laws as simply as possible. Neither is it a "science for dummies" either. Instead, this book is best read by the fireside. It is top quality literature which is insightful and deep while retaining the human element all the way through. Given its inexpensive price, this book is a winner all around.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves stories. I would especially recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of scientific ideas and the people who advanced them. This book is also useful material for college courses in science, history or literature.
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I purchased this book expecting something else. I anticipated to hear a short background on each scientist followed by their discoveries in a historical context. What you actually get is a more in depth biography of the people and less about their discoveries. That being said it is still a god book and I just am knocking a star off because it was not what I expected.
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Five centuries or so of history of science in a single volume: that is an accomplishment. The author seems to prefer some scientists instead of others and gives more details for those that he probably likes the most and overlooks others. So the coverage is not equal. Having said that, he puts the scientific discoveries in context and makes the all story an interesting discovery in itself. The main thesis is that discoveries are not accidental and the scientist does not live in a vaccum but instead it is a slow process that builds on previous scientists and discoveries. What is not about: it's not a history of medicine, nor a history of machines. Physics (and a little bit of chemistry) and biology seem to be his main subjects (physics definetively more than biology). He keeps the subject very simple and sometimes for the sake of simplicity he omits some details about the scientific discovery itself for which explanations are not provided: for instance, the general theory of relativity or the Kepler's 3 laws are left for further readings. All in all, it is a beautiful book that I sincerely recommend to the reader.
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