THE LUNAR MEN

FIVE FRIENDS WHOSE CURIOSITY CHANGED THE WORLD

A very welcome, highly readable contribution to intellectual history.

A lucid portrait of like-minded if very different Brits who worked, schemed, and conversed the Industrial Revolution into motion.

Josiah Wedgwood, Samuel Galton, Erasmus Darwin, James Watt: all familiar names, figuring in every college survey of the history of technology and the intellectual history of England. London-based editor Uglow (Hogarth: A Life and a World, 1997), who, one suspects, prefers the 17th century to her own time, blows the dust off their bones to present them as eccentric, preternaturally intelligent men who, far from laboring alone on their steam engines and mechanical looms, met regularly with fellow Midlands inventors and “toy-makers”—a toy then being the term for “the wealth of small metal goods for which Birmingham was already famous”—in lively discussions that centered on how to improve the human condition and make a fortune in the bargain. (Uglow quotes the local saying, current until the 1970s, “Any fool can make money in Birmingham.”) Infused with the spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment, in part because several of its fellows had studied in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the “Lunar Society of Birmingham” evolved from a circle of inventors devoted to sharing the results of experiments and, in Darwin’s words, to getting in “a little philosophical laughing” to an influential if largely informal academy. Among its accomplishments were the vetting of Darwin’s first scientific paper, on electricity, and pushing the development of the elaborate canal system that even today joins some of the major rivers of the Midlands, to say nothing of making a slew of inventions that changed the world—and all with the aim of perfecting it. Uglow observes, sadly, that while this “constellation of extraordinary individuals” was short-lived, its collaborative and sometimes nearly instantaneous efforts were unmatched until the present, with the arrival of the Internet. Though rather less sparkling than Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club (2001), with which it shares many sympathies (and a publisher), Uglow’s study ably captures the brilliance of that constellation in moments sublime and ordinary.

A very welcome, highly readable contribution to intellectual history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-19440-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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