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Even Einstein had to eat. We seem to forget that scientists live in the same world as the rest of us, and that their work is informed by everything they encounter day to day. Lisa Jardine explores this interconnectedness in the context of the late 17th-century scientific revolution in Ingenious Pursuits, a well-planned journey back in time that delivers precious insight into the lives of those who laid the groundwork for cloning, nuclear weapons, and Internet commerce. Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, and Gian Domenico Cassini are just a few of the multitalented explorers that Jardine profiles through diaries, letters, and scientific records. Taking the time to fully flesh out the lives of these adventurous spirits, she shows the reader that science began as a natural curiosity about the material world, inspired by diverse interests: art, religion, medicine, engineering, and more.
Political meddling in science is nothing new; even 300 years ago rulers competed for knowledge and the status that came from scientific achievement. Jardine expands on this premise to see the colonial expansion of the time as a driving force behind research, responsible for the contemporary explosions in cartography, botany, and optics. While Ingenious Pursuits stays for the most part in the 17th century, it does remind us of our own interwoven scientific and social threads, and that perhaps the next revolutionary breakthrough will come about as much because of telemarketers as National Science Foundation grants. --Rob Lightner [via]