Tag Archive for: Review

“One of the Best Books Out This Year!” — Bookin’ with Sunny

A  blog review so amazing I can’t resist posting it here!

“Laura J. Snyder has written one of the best books out this year.  The Philosophical Breakfast Club, a narrative history of the world of science in Victorian Great Britain, not only makes a subject many of us left behind in our high school chemistry labs come alive, but also makes it powerfully relevant to the world we live in today.”

“The story Snyder tells runs parallel to much of what we experience in the 21st century. For the layperson, whose only practical association with science involves taking our meds, turning out the lights, flying to visit our children, and using our PCs and laptops as best we can, this book is a lively, accessible and very close look at the world of modern science in its infancy. . . . This is not a fast read, but once started it is hard to put down.”

The full review can be read here.

“Multidimensional and Rich” — The Record (Waterloo)

A very nice review appeared in The Record of Waterloo, Canada. It was reprinted in the The Times of India, in the “Cambridge News” section, as well as in the local Guelph paper.

The reviewer calls the book “multidimensional and rich with the sentiment of the time,” and “a well-blended rendition of friendship and modernization, starring four intellectual soulmates.”

You can read the full review here.

“Educational” “Entertaining” “Remarkable” — Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

A terrific review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“Snyder skillfully combines biography with history of science. She has managed to produce an educational, entertaining, and never boring book that provides insights into some of the most remarkable episodes in the history of science. Especially remarkable is the ability of this author to paint an intuitive and lively picture of the diversity and richness of the natural sciences before Darwin. . . . The revolution for which Whewell and his friends were responsible . . . quickly became part of scientific routine, and its protagonists were, unjustly, largely forgotten.”

Read the full review (in German) here.

“A gem” “Absorbing” — Paul Glister, Centauri Dreams


On his very interesting website, Centauri Dreams, Paul Glister discusses the 19th century debate over extraterrestrial life, focusing on the chapter in which I discuss this in The Philosophical Breakfast Club. It’s well worth a read, especially given the recent news stories claiming, then refuting, the discovery of alien microbes.

Glister also has some very flattering things to say about my book:

“The Philosophical Breakfast Club is a gem, and anyone interested in the history of science or the cultural realm of 19th Century Britain will find it absorbing. . . . [T]he four young Cambridge students would spend their lives looking for ways to promote and encourage the new science. Their rivalries, intrigues and passions in a lifetime of dedicated research take on vigorous life in Snyder’s expert hands.”

Read the post here.

“A Fascinating Story, Told with Considerable Charm” — Washington Times

A terrific review in today’s The Washington Times:

“A fascinating story, told with considerable charm. . . . In between careful explanations of their scientific explorations, Ms Snyder weaves in an account of life in the 19th century and the nonscientific lives of her four subjects; this is a story of friendship as well as science. . . . Writing the biography of four people at once is difficult to pull off, but Ms Snyder manages it well . . . [A] rich history behind the marvels of the modern world.”

Read the full review here.

“Popular Intellectual History at its Near Best” — Washington Post

A wonderful review by Michael Dirda of The Washington Post:

“A fine book…as wide-ranging and anecdotal, as excited and exciting, as those long-ago Sunday morning conversations at Cambridge. To me her book is an example of popular intellectual history at its near best. What’s more, The Philosophical Breakfast Club forms a natural successor to Jenny Uglow’s Lunar Men…and Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder.”

Read the full review here.

“An Intellectual Banquet” — The Objective Standard

A terrific review in the Spring issue of The Objective Standard.

“If wonder and humanity do return to science, wonderful biographical works such as Snyder’s Philosophical Breakfast Club will no doubt have played a part. The Philosophical Breakfast Club is an intellectual banquet, recounting myriad thought provoking scientific discoveries, and sufficiently detailed to convey the kind of environment these men lived in and how they dramaticaly changed science for the better. . . . An entertaining and enlightening journey through the Victorian age filled with scores of interesting scientists besides the Philosophical Breakfast Club, many of whom, given their contributions to science and human life, deserve their own biographies.”

Subscribers can read the full review here.

“Deftly recreates this age of marvels” — The Economist

The Philosophical Breakfast Club received a rave review from Tom Chatfield of The Economist and MoreIntelligentLife.com.

“Laura J. Snyder deftly recreates this age of marvels through the lives of four remarkable men. In doing so, she tells a greater tale of the rise of science as a formal discipline, and the triumph of evidence-based methods of inductive reasoning.”

“Much of the delight of Ms Snyder’s telling lies in her eye for detail. . . . [She] gives flesh to her four remarkable subjects. . . . Ms Snyder does not spare colour in these portraits, which convey what it meant to be men of science at a time when ‘there was no graduate education in science, and no scientific careers to pursue.’”

“Ms Snyder . . . is a sure-footed guide to the mores and foibles of 19th-century Britain. From the pecuniary costs of living as a Baronet, to the insults meted out to brilliant females who dared to outdo men at mathematics, she holds up her mirror to an age at once startlingly modern in its hunger for knowledge and almost medieval in its weights of tradition.”

“The members of the Philosophical Breakfast Club left behind some lavish gifts. This volume offers them up delightfully.”

See the full review, including images of Babbage, Herschel, Jones and Whewell, here.

Bringing Science, History and Philosophy to a Broader Public

BookBrowse, a web “guide to exceptional books,” recommends The Philosophical Breakfast Club in the site’s March newsletter, based on pre-publication reader reviews.

I’m especially pleased to see that many of the reviewers consider themselves “non-scientific” or even “science-averse,” and yet they read and enjoyed the book. Part of my motivation for telling this story was to bring the excitement of science, and its connection to the rest of culture, to an audience which might not already appreciate this.

A number of my academic colleagues believe that it is somehow less scholarly, or “beneath” us in a way, to try to reach a broader audience, but I see it as part of my role as a teacher to share my love of science, history and philosophy with as many people as possible! And, if people are “science averse,” isn’t that in part the fault of scientists, and historians/philosophers of science, who have the ability to bring knowledge and love of science to people, but who have not adequately done so?

Of course, there are some who do this quite well; Brian Greene and Oliver Sacks come readily to mind. But I think more of us can, and should, bring science, history and philosophy to broader audiences. Bloggers like AG Market Network are certainly trying, and using the internet is one of the key ways to spread knowledge and share passions these days. Perhaps that’s where we’re going to harvest the next generation of science-lovers.

I’d love to hear what others think about this.

See that BookBrowse Newsletter here.

Some excerpts from these reviews:

“Absolutely fascinating book about the birth of modern scientists. . . . Very readable book that even non-scientific people such as myself could relate to.”

“I loved The Philosophical Breakfast Club and our social history book club will definitely be reading it!”

“This extremely well-researched and written book goes beyond just an account of four extraordinary men and their accomplishments. It provides rich descriptions of their personal lives and the events that effected them eotionally and personally.”

“Awakens the Reader’s Inner Spirit of Discovery” — Bookreporter.com

A terrific new review on the influential website Bookreporter.com:

“For anyone interested in science, history, philosophy or engineering…this is a history book you will not want to miss. The author’s extensive research, wonderful writing, and passion for lifelong learning all serve to awaken the reader’s inner spirit of discovery.”

Read the full review here.