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Seventeenth-century England was racked by civil war, plague and fire; a world ruled by superstition and ignorance. But another tumultuous event was also taking place: the revolution in science. A series of meetings of 'natural philosophers' in Oxford and London saw the beginning of a new method of thinking based on proof and experiment. And at the heart of this Renaissance were the founding fathers of modern western science: The Royal Society. John Gribbin's gripping, colorful account of this unparalleled time of discovery explores the birth of the Society and brings its prime movers to life, including: William Gilbert, the first man to test a theory by scientific methods; Francis Bacon, the extravagant, hedonistic philosopher who created the ideal image of the scientist; William Harvey, who carried out gruesome experiments on the circulation of blood; Christopher Wren, then more famous as astronomer than architect; Robert Mory, a spy for Cardinal Richelieu; the hot-tempered Robert Hooke, who transformed the Royal Society's fortunes yet whose work was written out of history; and his ambitious rival Isaac Newton, who finally established the model of a universe that follows precise mechanical laws, not the whims of gods.
When Edmund Halley, polymath, inventor and adventurer, accurately predicted the extraordinary return of a comet in 1759, science finally came of age. This compelling book shows how the triumph of the revolution that changed our world - and still continues 350 years on - was ultimately not the work of one isolated genius, but of a Fellowship. [via]