A welcome, concise addition to the literature on the history of science.



A simple, delightful book on the Royal Society of London, its members, and accomplishments.

As respected historian Tinniswood (History/Univ. of Buckingham; Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household, 2018, etc.) recounts, in 1660, a group of friends from Wadham College Oxford met with other academics at Gresham College, London, to form a society fostering experimentation and observation rather than merely refining existing Aristotelian and Ptolemaic thought. By 1662, they were called the Royal Society, with a charter from the king. The Silver Mace presented to the group by Charles II still is exhibited at each meeting. The makeup of the society included physicians, professors of mathematics, physics, and natural philosophy, and some members of the aristocracy (in order to ensure not only proximity to power, but the hope of financial help). The society received its charter thanks to Sir Robert Moray, but it was Robert Hooke, as curator of monthly experiments, who kept the group in the vanguard of experimentation. Just a few of those exhibitions included demonstrations about poison, respiration, and blood transfusions. In 1665, Henry Oldenburg produced the first edition of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, a first-of-its-kind scientific journal that provided a public forum for an international culture of knowledge exchange that continues today. The society’s repository was eventually combined with the holdings of Sir Hans Sloane to form the basis of the British Museum. Its most important move was sending botanist Joseph Banks, who became the longest-serving president of the society, on the expedition to record the transit of Venus in 1768, a voyage led by James Cook. For more than 350 years, the society has been an independent voice in the scientific community devoid of vested interests and the influence of government, private parties, and universities. Tinniswood’s writing is scientifically clear, organized, and crisp, making this short book a wealth of information as well as a pleasant read.

A welcome, concise addition to the literature on the history of science.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-7358-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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