A lengthy, difficult book about a remarkable man; devoted readers will muddle through.

THE ASCENT OF JOHN TYNDALL

VICTORIAN SCIENTIST, MOUNTAINEER, AND PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL

A massive biography of one of the Victorian era’s most significant all-around scientists.

Science historian Jackson sets himself the monumental task of sorting through the volumes of writing of Irish scientist John Tyndall (1820-1893), who began his career as a surveyor for the railroads. A true autodidact, in 1847 he was hired to teach at Queenwood College, where he was able to attend lectures on chemistry and botany and learned about discovery-based and child-centered learning. He also became aware of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings, which, along with those of Thomas Carlyle, influenced his work. Eventually, Tyndall began to teach lectures in physics at a time when laboratory science held little priority in British schools. He received a doctorate in Germany, where he developed his belief in the importance of molecular structure and his consummate skill in experimental design and execution. Seemingly always at work, he read widely in philosophy and wrote about his travels for publication while studying crystal structure and transmission of heat. It was the latter work that led to the discovery that Earth’s atmosphere retained heat (greenhouse effect). His work on heat conduction in glaciers (supported by his Alpine mountaineering), structure of matter, promotion of scientific curriculum for schools, and classic demonstrations of science ensured that he was famous in his own time. He was sought after not only for his lectures, but also for his congeniality as a dinner guest. He was not, however, a mathematical physicist; he was an experimentalist—one of the best—rather than a theoretician. He disproved and/or improved others’ theories and showed that pure science could lead to practical applications. The author notes a gap in Tyndall’s journals from 1871 to 1883, a fact which readers may well appreciate. The book is chock-full of lists of friends he visited and lectures given and attended, and these sections become tiresome. Readers should have more than high school physics to comprehend Tyndall’s work.

A lengthy, difficult book about a remarkable man; devoted readers will muddle through.

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-878895-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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

NIGHT

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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