978-0-8050-7349-2 / 9780805073492

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About the book:

It is only relatively recently that science writing has been thought worthy of collection into anthologies. To date, the gold standard has been set by the The Faber Book of Science, edited by John Carey, published in 1995, which manages to be simultaneously eclectic and comprehensive, as well as hugely entertaining.

How does Galileo's Commandment compare? Edited by a professional science writer, it tries to be more than merely a pull-together of "good stuff": Bolles aims at conveying something of how scientists think and work as well. Thus the likes of Galileo and Kepler rub shoulders with Einstein and James Watson in selections that show how they came to the conclusions they did, with helpful scene-setting introductions by Bolles. But while the intention is laudable, the execution is less successful. The great thing about anthologies is that you don't have to read them sequentially. Dip into this one, however, and the logic behind its structure is lost--and, indeed, becomes an irritation. Bolles' scrupulous use of ellipses to show the deletion of longueurs in the original text is also distracting: some selections, like that from Stephen Jay Gould, appear to have terminal measles.

While it fails as a conventional anthology, the book certainly succeeds as a source of hard-to- get original writings by leading scientists. As such, I shall not be keeping Galileo's Commandment next to my bed--but within arm's reach of my desk. --Robert Matthews

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