On Giant's Shoulders: Great Scientists and Their Discoveries: From Archimedes to Watson and Crick / Edition 1

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Explore the greatest minds in the history of science with some of the top scientific thinkers of today.

  • Archimedes
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Antoine Lavoisier
  • Michael Faraday—
  • Charles Darwin
  • Jules Henri PoincarT
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Marie Curie
  • Albert Einstein
  • Francis Crick
  • James Watson

The story of science is the greatest adventure of the human mind over the last 2,500 years, as scientists have progressively advanced humankind's understanding and control of the universe. Yet for many, the scientific theories that underpin the modern world can be hard to grasp.

On Giants' Shoulders elucidates the milestones in the history of science, focusing on twelve individuals and their extraordinary breakthroughs. From a layman's perspective, acclaimed journalist and author Melvyn Bragg discusses the life, work, and legacy of these remarkable people with leading scientists and historians in each field, including Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Roger Penrose, Martin Rees, Oliver Sacks, John Gribbin, and Paul Davies.

Interviewed by journalist Melvyn Bragg, a selection of scientists discuss twelve of the pioneers of science history—and the fascinating personalities behind the discoveries.

What makes this book work so well is that Bragg is a fine journalist applying his skills as an outsider to blow away the pretensions and reveal some of the mechanics and motivations of what is still a remarkably closed world. —New Scientist

Each life is pored over in a brief but brilliant intellectual post mortem with the help of prominent contemporary scientists. . . Here are the paranoia, the blind alleys of research, the rivalry, and many collisions of intellectual heavyweights. . . On Giants' Shoulders holds delights for both scientist and layperson.—Kevin O'Sullivan, Irish Times

Each chapter has the pace and liveliness of a round table discussion. . . In a surprisingly brief space, one can thus taste a flavor of true debate as each contemporary scientist brings in their own angle.—Susan Greenfield, Independent on Sunday

Bragg explores the contribution made by great scientists, from Archimedes to Crick and Watson, to the development of our understanding of the world. What makes the result special is Bragg's unusual relationship to his subject. His gentle probing, and the selection of material, addresses exactly the questions about science and scientists that interest outsiders.—John Gribbin, The Independent

Ranging from the foundation of hydrostatics in the third century b.c. to the discovery of DNA's structure in our own time, this is an accessible, thought-provoking, and fascinating account of the seminal discoveries of the past and their originators. The book also illuminates the issues with which scientists are wrestling today, poised on their forerunners' shoulders to carry scientific inquiry into the next millennium.

This is an enchanting book, because it is a book produced by a clever man listening intently. . . Science is not, in truth, a daunting alien territory. But characteristically it seems to want to tell us the answers dogmatically, before we are sure what questions we would like to ask. On Giants' Shoulders asks just those kind of questions.—Lisa Jardine, The Times (London)

Nobody in the media has worked harder than Melvyn Bragg to promote science as a culture and scientists as creators. In a sea of indifference to the educational and cultural nature of science, he seems to be the only person with perception.—Professor Sir Harry Kroto, The Sunday Times (London)

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A mixed bag of essays on 12 great scientists, derived from a series of radio shows hosted by the author.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471357322
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/27/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.61 (w) x 8.13 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

MELVYN BRAGG is an acclaimed journalist and the host of the popular English radio program Start the Week. He is also the author of seventeen novels and five works of nonfiction, including biographies of Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Archimedes (C. 287 B.C.-212 B.C.) with Lisa Jardine, Geoffrey Lloyd, Simon Schaffer and Lewis Wolpert 11
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) with Mario Biagioli, Paul Davies, Michael Sharratt and Margaret Wertheim 43
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) with John Gribbin, Robert Iliffe, John Mullan and Martin Rees 73
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) with Peter Atkins, Jean-Pierre Poirier, Simon Schaffer and Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent 101
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) with Geoffrey Cantor, Ravi Mirchandani, Iwan Morus and John Meurig Thomas 127
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) with Janet Browne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Darwin Keynes and John Maynard Smith 157
Jules Henri Poincare (1854-1912) with June Barrow Green, Robert May, Michel Paty and Ian Stewart 185
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) with Susan Greenfield, Adam Phillips and Oliver Sacks 213
Marie Curie (1867-1934) with Francoise Balibar, John Gribbin, Dominique Pestre and Susan Quinn 243
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) with Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Paul Davies, John Gribbin, Roger Penrose and Robert Schulmann 273
Francis Crick (1916-) and James Watson (1928-) with James Watson, Richard Dawkins, Evelyn Fox Keller and John Maynard Smith 301
Where Are We Now? with Igor Aleksander, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Paul Davies, Richard Dawkins, John Horgan, John Maddox, John Maynard Smith and Roger Penrose 329
Further Reading 361
Acknowledgments 367
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