THE PHILOSOPHICAL BREAKFAST CLUB

FOUR REMARKABLE FRIENDS WHO TRANSFORMED SCIENCE AND CHANGED THE WORLD

Lifelong friends since 1813, when they were students at Cambridge University, the scientists—William Whewell, Charles...

Snyder (Philosophy/St. John’s Univ.; Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society, 2006) shows how four British “natural philosophers” helped launch modern science.

Lifelong friends since 1813, when they were students at Cambridge University, the scientists—William Whewell, Charles Babbage, John Herschel and Richard Jones—shared a belief in the importance of precise measurement and calculations as the basis for the scientific method and advocated public support for science. The author makes a convincing case that not only did each of these men make important individual contributions—Whewell became the master of Trinity College, Cambridge; Herschel mapped the southern skies; Babbage invented the first computer; Jones was a pioneer in developing statistical economics—but together they played a vital role in transforming science. One of the group’s running debates—on the role of God in the evolution of new species—was influential in helping Darwin formulate the theory of natural selection. The breakfast club where they met regularly at Cambridge to discuss their ideas led 20 years later to the formation of the British Association for the Advancement of Society, which they helped found. In 1833, Whewell chaired its third meeting and in response to an attack from the Romantic poet Coleridge—who derided its members as mere experimenters “digging in fossil pits, or performing experiments with electrical apparatus”—coined the term “scientist” as a replacement for “natural philosophers.” The much older Royal Society continued to exist, but its meetings were poorly attended. On the other hand, BAAS meetings, a forerunner of modern scientific conferences, drew thousands and shaped the direction of science, opening their meetings to the broader public and reintroducing debate, which had been banned by the Society since the days of Newton.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7679-3048-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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