The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr. Beddoes and His Sons of Genius

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Yale University Press, 2009 - Science - 294 pages
3 Reviews

At the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, England, founded in the closing years of the eighteenth century, dramatic experiments with gases precipitated not only a revolution in scientific medicine but also in the history of ideas. Guided by the energy of maverick doctor Thomas Beddoes, the institution was both laboratory and hospital—the first example of a modern medical research institution. But when its members discovered the mind-altering properties of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, their experiments devolved into a pioneering exploration of consciousness with far-reaching and unforeseen effects.

This riveting book is the first to tell the story of Dr. Beddoes and the brilliant circle who surrounded him: Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey, who supported his ideas; James Watt, who designed and built his laboratory; Thomas Wedgwood, who funded it; and the dazzling young chemistry assistant, Humphry Davy, who identified nitrous oxide and tested it on himself, with spectacular results. Medical historian Mike Jay charts the chaotic rise and fall of the institution in this fast-paced account, and reveals its crucial influence—on modern drug culture, attitudes toward objective and subjective knowledge, the development of anesthetic surgery, and the birth of the Romantic movement.

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Review: The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius

User Review  - Fraser Sherman - Goodreads

A look at the 1790s as England grappled with the radical ideas of the French revolution and the equally astonishing theories coming out of modern chemistry. The book focuses on a particular scientist ... Read full review

Review: The Atmosphere of Heaven: The Unnatural Experiments of Dr Beddoes and His Sons of Genius

User Review  - Sean Patrix - Goodreads

I love quirky, well-written science books. This is a fun read. It's about Dr Beddoes of England who discovers the properties of laughing gas. He is surrounded by the foremost men of science from 18th ... Read full review

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About the author (2009)

Mike Jay has written extensively on scientific and medical history and is a specialist in the study of drugs. His books include the award-winning The Air Loom Gang: The Strange and True Story of James Tilly Matthews and His Visionary Madness. He lives in London.

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