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Since the day Archimedes leapt from his bathtub and ran nakedthrough the streets of ancient Syracuse shouting "Eureka!" thehistory of science has been punctuated by moments of true insightand discovery. Eureka!: Scientific Breakthroughs that Changed theWorld explores the events and thought processes that led twelvegreat minds to their "eureka moments." It also explains theprofound impact of these discoveries on the way we live, think, andview the world around us.
Most of the "instant" discoveries presented here were, in fact, thecombined product of determined effort and exceptional feats ofvision. You'll learn how, after years of highly focused study,Dmitri Mendeleyev had a vision of the structure of the periodictable form in his mind while playing a card game of his owndevising. Alfred Wegener, on the other hand, amassed data from thevaried fields of meteorology, seismology, paleontology, zoology,and geology to confirm his intuitive belief in his theory ofcontinental drift-a theory that provoked a storm of outrage fromgeologists and was not proven until thirty years after hisdeath.
You'll also meet "lucky" scientists such as Joseph Priestley, whoadmitted that he did not know what he was doing when he stumbledupon the existence of oxygen, but realized immediately that he hadmade a stunningly important discovery. Likewise, Alexander Fleming,who discovered penicillin by recognizing the importance of a"failed" experiment and rescuing it from the trash bin in hislab.
This fascinating and engaging collection of great moments inscience is filled with clear explanations, vivid descriptions, andplenty of surprises. It is must reading for anyone interested inscience, science history, and the implacable human urge to exploreand understand the unknown.
Introduction: A Sudden Flash of Light.
1. A Breath of Immoral Air: Joseph Priestley and the Discovery ofOxygen.
2. Epiphany at Clapham Road: Fredrich Kekule and the Discovery ofthe Structure of Carbon Compounds.
3. A Visionary from Siberia: Dmitry Mendeleyev and the Invention ofthe Periodic Table.
4. The Birth of Amazing Discoveries: Isaac Newton and the Theory ofGravity.
5. The Happiest Thought: Albert Einstein and the Theory ofGravity.
6. The Forgotten Inventor: Philo Farnsworth and the Development ofTelevision.
7. A Faint Shadow of its Former Self: Alexander Fleming and theDiscovery of Penicillin.
8. A Flash of Light in Franklin Park: Charles Townes and theInvention of the Laser.
9. The Pioneer of Pangaea: Alfred Wegener and the Theory ofContinental Drift.
10. Solving the Mystery of Mysteries: Charles Darwin and the Originof Species.
11. Unraveling the Secret of Life: James Watson and Francis Crickand the Descovery of the Double Helix.
12. Broken Teacups and Infinite Coastlines: Benoit Mendelbrot andthe Invention of Fractal Geometry.
Posted January 3, 2015
I found this book to be fairly interesting. A few of the stories were new to me and I really enjoyed learning about how the discoveries that impact our world today were made. Leslie Alan Horvitz includes the historical background to each scientist and each discovery, making it easier to appreciate the scientific work in full. Horvitz gives the reader a true sense of the person behind each discovery which makes the reader sympathize with their struggles and rejoice in their final accomplishments.
On the other hand, the book is lacking in some areas. Horvitz never includes pictures or visuals which takes away significantly from chapters regarding the periodic table, the structure of carbon, and fractal geometry. While I had some previous knowledge of these concepts, I do think it would have been much easier to get the full picture and understanding if pictures had been included. Also, while the historical background is interesting and helpful, I did find it longwinded and extremely over-detailed. It’s clear that Horvitz put extensive research into this book, but after a few chapters it was hard to hold interest in her writing anymore. Not only does Horvitz put an excessive amount of details into the historical part of the story, she hardly puts any into the actual scientific discoveries other than merely explaining them. It appears to be a running theme throughout the chapters of misplaced focus. Horvitz tends to focus more on the history of the people than the actual discovery.
I feel as though this book would have been far more interesting if the stories were shorter, and in greater number. Some important discoveries are missing which would have been beneficial to learn about as well. Of the stories were more focused it would be easier to read and there would have been room for more of the important discoveries that happened outside of the last 300 years. Overall, this book is interesting, but somewhat tiresome and lacking.