Biographies

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of ScienceThe Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was an age when men braved wind and waves, diseases and ‘savages’, to discover new worlds; when men and women both worked day and night, so that they could be the first to see what no one else had seen before; when they would put their own lives on the line, so that they could experience new sensations. It was a time when no dichotomies existed between science, philosophy and the arts; when science inspired poetry, and scientists were also philosphers and artists; it was an Age of Wonder – the Romantic Age. This well-researched and critically acclaimed book by Richard Holmes details the lives of the men and women who played key roles in the advancement of science in this era – Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William and Caroline Herschel, Sir Humphrey Davy and a host of characters, and as well as the poets who were inspired by all these new discoveries, e.g. Erasmus Darwin, John Keats, Mary Shelley etc. Richard Holmes successfully weaves the science, history, philosophy and poetry together seamlessly for a thoroughly absorbing read; rightly so and befitting of the subject at hand.

The Seashell on the MountaintopThe Seashell on the Mountaintop by Alan Cutler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up this book by Alan Cutler while browsing through the popular science section in a local bookstore, drawn to it mainly because of its nice cover! It turned out to be quite a gem, unlike anything I have ever read. It’s a short biography on the life of Nicolaus Steno, a 17th century anatomist who is also widely considered to be the pioneer of the geological sciences. The reader is transported into the 17th century; a world in which science and religion went hand in hand, both playing a huge role in any intellectual discourse. The discovery of sea-shells and shark teeth on mountain-sides and some of the most unexpected places would lead Nicolaus Steno on a journey that would change his life, his faith and his world forever. Ultimately, it resulted in the laying down of foundations for paleontology and geology, as well as the beatification of Nicolaus Steno by the Catholic Church in 1987. The Seashell on the Mountaintop shows us how science and faith can rub shoulders with each other without having to part ways after that – using an example from the very pages of our own history.

Real Scientists, Real FaithReal Scientists, Real Faith by R.J. Berry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Real Scientists, Real Faith is a collection of short autobiographies written by scientists who also happen to profess a Christian faith. The stories both encouraged and challenged me at the same time, providing the seeds for further reflection with regards to my own faith, vocation and calling as a scientist as well as a Christian. Covering scientists from a wide range of disciplines, from astronomers, conservationists, neurobiologists etc, this book is really about ‘What difference their faith makes to their scientific practice, and what difference their science makes to their understanding og their faith’, I highly recommend this book to all Christian scientists or Christians thinking about a vocation in science.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious CharacterSurely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of entertaining anecdotes and short memoirs written by the late Richard Feynman about his own life experiences. A Nobel laureate and one of the most influential personalities in modern science, the wisdom of Richard Feynman shines through all the humour and quirkiness as he guides us through his childhood, his student days, his involvement in the Manhattan Project, and then his sustained career as a physicist at Caltech. His insatiable curiosity, intuitive mind and his refusal to fit into any stereotype have inspired academics and non-academics alike all around the world. I am one of those persons – as this book played a crucial role in my own journey towards a life in academia.

Feynman's Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in LifeFeynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life by Leonard Mlodinow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it has Feynman’s name on it, Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life is the story of Leonard Mlodinow rather than that of Richard Feynman himself. Not that it makes the book any less significant, as Mlodinow has his own story to tell. As a new post-doctorate researcher at Caltech, Mlodinow shares all the wonders, insecurities, and fears as he begins life as a physicist. Along the way, he reveals some of the more interesting encounters and conversations that he shared with stellar characters in the world of physics – Murray Gell Mann, John Schwarz and, of course, Richard Feynman himself. There are nuggets of wisdom scattered all around this short memoir, both from Feynman and from Mlodinow himself (not to mention some of his other friends including a janitor!), some of which have encouraged me as I set out into the exciting world of science. The book ends with an intimate look at the last days in the life of Richard Feynman, before he finally succumbed to his long battle with cancer.

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