Saturday, April 14, 2007

Five best scientific works that are also literature

John Gribbin, a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex and the author of The Fellowship -- a new book which deals with the 17th-century scientific revolution, named a "five best" list of "scientific works [that] are also literature of a high order" for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
Micrographia by Robert Hooke (1665).

"Micrographia" is the first great scientific book written in English, handsomely illustrated (many of the drawings were by Robert Hooke's friend Christopher Wren) and easily accessible to the layman. Samuel Pepys got an early copy and sat up reading it until 2 a.m., noting in his diary that it was "the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life." Hooke described not only the microscopic world but also astronomy, geology and the nature of light, setting out ideas that Isaac Newton later lifted and passed off as his own. For centuries in Newton's shadow, Hooke is now rightly regarded as Newton's equal in everything except mathematical prowess. He was the rock on which the early success of the Royal Society of London was built--and he wrote much more entertainingly than Newton.
Read about all five titles on Gribbin's list.

--Marshal Zeringue