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“Truly Remarkable” — Endeavour

I somehow managed to miss this wonderful review of The Philosophical Breakfast Club that appeared last year, in the British magazine Endeavour:

“Snyder’s excellent book achieves the impossible. . . . All four of the main characters in her narrative are such dominant figures in the Victorian intellectual landscape that each of them would normally require…a substantial biography in their own right. Snyder manages to give the reader a deep look into the lives and intellectual achievements of all four in a scant 450 pages, a truly remarkable feat. Beyond this each of the protagonists was a polymath and together they cover a bewildering range of academic and semi-academic topics. . . . When dealing with these each of these topics, and the contributions that one or more of the quartet made, Snyder first gives a concise but extensive history of the subject at hand. Each of these potted histories is good enough to serve as an encyclopedia article on the topic dealt with, a second remarkable achievement.

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“Fascinating” — Newsweek

The Philosophical Breakfast Club, and my recent TED Talk, were featured in Newsweek’s piece “Around the World in Six Ideas,” written by Christopher Dickey:

Before There Were Scientists

The word “scientist” was not coined until 1833. Before that, scientific disciplines were the domain of mostly wealthy men and women who called themselves “natural philosophers.” They might have had curiosity cabinets full of fossils, concoctions, and pickled bits of anatomy, but laboratories were few and far between. Then, oddly, the eccentric, opium-imbibing poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge challenged this use of the metaphysical-sounding word “philosopher.” The response, as in “artist” or “cellist,” was “scientist.” Laura Snyder tells this story in her fascinating book The Philosophical Breakfast Club about the way four geniuses at Cambridge University revolutionized modern science to create the many disciplines that exist under that rubric today. But there’s a downside, too, she said in a recent TED talk. Her 19th-century heroes would have been “deeply dismayed” by the way science has been “walled off” from the rest of today’s culture. She finds it “shocking” that only 28 percent of American adults can say (correctly) whether humans and dinosaurs inhabited Earth at the same time or how much of the planet is covered in water. The majority, it seems, either don’t know, don’t care, or think those are, well, metaphysical questions.

TED Talk from TED Global 2012

Here’s the TED Talk on the Philosophical Breakfast Club I gave at TED Global 2012. Share!

[ted id=1712]

Oliver Sacks “Inspired” by “Philosophical Breakfast Club”

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I’m incredibly pleased and excited that Oliver Sacks included The Philosophical Breakfast Club on a list of five science biographies that have inspired him.

Sacks is one of my favorite non-fiction writers, in part because he is able to connect wonderfully with a broad readership to interest them in, and educate them on, complex scientific issues related to neurology and psychology. He’s definitely one of the writers who inspires me, so it’s particularly wonderful to see my book on his list.

You can see the list here.

I can’t wait to read his new book, Hallucinations, out on Nov. 6!

“It’s So Interesting! And Surprisingly Funny!” — Not Raising Brats

I can’t resist posting this new review from the blog “Not Raising Brats,” because I love that a reviewer pointed out the humor in the book. I laughed a lot while writing it, and it’s great to know that I wasn’t the only one who found the exploits of the philosophical breakfast club members kind of hilarious at times!! (The humor was especially important to me because of some difficult stuff I was going through while writing the book.)

Of course, I also love that the reviewer calls my book “excellent” and ends with: “I really loved this one”:

“EXCELLENT….I annoyed my husband to no end reading excerpts from this book. It’s just so interesting! And surprisingly funny! The club of the title refers to one created by four leading ‘philosophers’ (ie scientists) at the turn of the 19th century. These guys coined the term ‘scientist.’ They charted the tides and the stars and created the first computer. They also drank heavily in college and wrote sarcastic letters to each other. I really loved this one.”

You can see the review, and read others, here.

“Summer Reading Selection 2012” — Cambridge University Alumni Bulletin

Cambridge University

Cambridge University

I just received my Cambridge University alumni bulletin, and was happily surprised to find The Philosophical Breakfast Club on the list of “Cambridge Authors: Summer Reading Selection 2012,” joining books by Stephen Fry, Andrew Preston, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Ian Tattersall, Claire Tomalin, and other Cambridge faculty/alumni. Still time to get your last bit of summer reading in. . . .

“On the Bookshelf, Summer 2012” — Brandeis Magazine Summer Bookshelf

I was happy to see The Philosophical Breakfast Club featured in the summer edition of my undergraduate university’s magazine on their summer reading bookshelf. It’s right under the book by a terrific historian on the faculty, David Hackett Fischer! There’s a nice little paragraph on the book, which you can see here.

The Philosophical Breakfast Club and Australia’s Great Science Read

Every year, the Royal Institution of Australia (whose wonderful motto is: “Bringing Science to People and People to Science”) sponsor Australia’s “Great Big Science Read,” where people are encouraged to read books—both fiction and non-fiction—having to do with science. Last year, the RiAus held a poll to choose the public’s “Favorite Science Book”—and The Philosophical Breakfast Club was the winner!

The RiAus has just put out a short list of some books recommended by “Some of Australia’s leading scientists and the RiAus Book Club” as suggestions for this year’s Great Science Read. I’m so pleased to see The Philosophical Breakfast Club on that list, and look forward to hearing from some new Australian readers!

“Beautifully Written and Elegantly Composed. . . . Outstanding” — ISIS

A very nice review of The Philosophical Breakfast Club just appeared in ISIS, the journal of the History of Science Society:

The Philosophical Breakfast Club is a beautifully written and elegantly composed story. . . . [The book] presents a wonderful portrait of science and university life in the period—the trials and tribulations of trying to be a scientist before professionalization.  It nicely evokes the broad interdisciplinary that was taken for granted then and is so rare now.  Its contextualization of the first half of the nineteenth century in Britain is outstanding, and it is highly successful in showing the deep intertwining of culture and society with the club members’ work. . . .

“This book will be extremely useful for teaching, students, and interested laypeople.  It would be an excellent text for a survey of modern science, a science and society class, or even a course on the history of Britain. . . .”

“I Struggled to Put the Book Down” — Astrobites Review

A nice new review from the website Astrobites. I love how it ends:

“One might have thought Victorian men of science would be impossibly staid and boring—a misconception that The Philosophical Breakfast Club will surely dislodge in short order. I struggled to put the book down.”

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