Edited by Bill Bryson
The Royal Society’s contributions to the world include the invention of scientific publishing, the creation of the bank holiday and the unveiling of the microscopic world. This weighty tome, celebrating 350 years of the Royal Society (the UK’s national academy of science), is a must read for any lay scientist, but is also hugely accessible for curious non-scientists.
In a vivid introduction, Bill Bryson highlights some of the many interdisciplinary discoveries made by notables such as Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Lister and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, all fellows of the Society. The remainder of this rather academic work of non-fiction is a pleasingly thematic appraisal of this centuries-old institution brought to you by 20 esteemed writers – some fellows themselves – each sticking to their specialism, variously delving into complex mathematics or giving a more cultural review of the challenges of science in society.
There’s some repetition of historical details, but the likes of Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins and Maggie Gee guide us coolly through the Society’s many achievements. As Martin Rees, the current Royal Society president, explains, his vision for the next 50 years at the Society echoes the words of evolutionary rap maestro Baba Brinkman: ‘Performance, Feedback, Revision’. Let’s look forward to another 350 years of groundbreaking discovery.