Starred Review. Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything) presents a remarkable collection of essays celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society of London and its many contributions to science. Society members have included such illustrious names as Darwin, Newton, Leibniz, and Francis Bacon, to name a few.
The volume's 23 contributors are both uniformly excellent and remarkable for their diversity. For example, novelist Margaret Atwood writes a very personal piece about the image of the scientist and its sometime appearance as the "mad scientist." Science historian Paul Davies writes about the effects on Western society of the realization that we are not the center of the universe. Biologist Richard Dawkins opines about the revolutionary nature of Darwin's discoveries, and science fiction writer Gregory Benford contemplates the meaning of time.
The wide array of scientific disciplines, including genetics, climate change, physics, and engineering, are each placed in a fresh and thought-provoking social and historical context. Bryson's name will bring readers in, but the real reward is fine writers writing about serious science in an accessible, good-natured style. It is a worthy celebration of the Royal Society. Color illus. (Nov.) (c)