UK's national academy of science
Seeing further: the story of science and the Royal Society
Bill Bryson (ed)
London, UK: Harper Press 2010 | 490pp | £25.00 (HB)
ISBN 9780007302567Reviewed by Bill Griffith
An engaging introduction by Bill Bryson highlights some of the early achievements of the society (he notes that it had a foreign secretary a hundred years before the British government had one). Twenty-one essays follow on aspects of the society by an eclectic mix of scientists, science writers, historians and novelists. Inevitably some contributions are more interesting than others, but almost all are stimulating. Newton, Darwin and Boyle are the names most often mentioned, and cosmology, mathematics and evolution feature in the majority of the essays. There is much to interest the chemist, eg Philip Ball in a typically perceptive piece Making stuff: from Bacon to Bakelite and Georgina Ferry writes on x-ray crystallography, reminding us that Kathleen Lonsdale was one of the first two women to become fellows, in 1945.
This is a handsomely produced and superbly illustrated book, one to dip into rather than to read at a stretch: why does it have no index? It provides an enjoyable and informative account of many aspects of this unique institution, and at £25 is an absolute bargain.