The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

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HarperPress, 2009 - Discoveries in science - 554 pages
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A decade in the making, pre-eminent biographer Richard Holmes presents this marvellously original look of the early scientific movement in Britain at a time when the distinction between the arts and sciences had yet to be established, when religious faith and scientific endeavour worked hand in hand in pursuit of answers to life's more ineffable questions.As eighteenth-century Britain teetered on the cusp of modernity, Holmes shows how a series of remarkable friendships came to define an age, nurturing ideas that challenged assumptions about identity, morality and religious belief. The astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, the chemists Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday, and their contemporaries wrestled with questions as relevant to us today as they were to Coleridge's generation: What are the sources of creativity? In what sense is there a human soul? Is it a fundamental mistake to regard science as a purely rational pursuit, or must we also recognise it as an imaginative and emotional one?With his customary sense of place, personality and period, his unerring ability to lay bare the workings of the human heart and his immense authority, this accessible and hugely readable book is breathtaking in its originality and its intellectual significance.

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The age of wonder: how the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science

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While Romanticism in Great Britain is known mostly as an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement, rapid and revolutionary scientific discoveries were an underlying catalyst to the era's vaunted ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Richard Holmes is a Fellow of the British Academy, and was Professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia (2001-2007). He was awarded the OBE in 1992. His first book, 'Shelley: The Pursuit', won the Somerset Maugham Prize in 1974. 'Coleridge: Early Visions' won the 1989 Whitbread Book of the Year Award, and 'Dr Johnson and Mr Savage' won the James Tait Black Prize. 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections' won the Duff Cooper Prize and the Heinemann Award. He lives in London and Norfolk with the novelist Rose Tremain.

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