The Art of Science: A Natural History of Ideas

The Art of Science by Richard Hamblyn - review
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This makes a fine little cameo of the Two Cultures two centuries before CP Snow, whose famous piece is also included. Commentating on naturalists such as Abraham Trembley , who wrote a paper on that familiar creature from school biology, the hydra, Goldsmith wrote: "their fields of vision are too contracted to take in the whole … Thus they proceed, laborious in trifles, constant in experiment, without one single abstraction, by which alone knowledge may be properly said to increase.

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Philosophy of mathematics is concerned with the philosophical foundations and implications of mathematics. It's time to put the placebo out of our misery" British Medical Journal , b We might then suppose that our sense of beauty was an arbitrary choice on the part of the Author of our nature, and that there might in principle be an infinite number of different senses of beauty. Accessed 18 August An Introduction London, , pp Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Subscribe to Independent Minds to bookmark this article Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later?

Goldsmith could not have suspected any of this in the 18th century, but his representatives are still with us. In his introduction, Hamblyn quotes the crass remark of an unnamed colleague: "I don't get on with scientists because I'm not on the autistic spectrum. In fact science and art also constitute a spectrum, not a dichotomy, as shown by figures such as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins , here writing on the lurid sunsets that resulted from the great Krakatoa volcanic explosion in Hopkins perfected a way of describing nature that is both scientifically precise and charged with aesthetic feeling: "Above the green in turn appeared a red glow, broader and burlier in make; it was softly brindled …" To cap it all, his account appeared in the world's leading science journal, Nature, which no longer publishes original observations by poets.

The writing in Hamblyn's extracts is invariably fine. One section, which includes EO Wilson on ants, Alison Jolly on man the primate, Mark Blumberg on the turtle's shell and John Lister-Kaye on the survival strategy of the Hebridean grey seal, brilliantly illustrates the mesmerising inventiveness of nature.

The turtle's shell, for instance, is composed of fused ribs, almost a reprise in a vertebrate of the external skeleton of arthropods, while Wilson's ants include a suicide bomber ants are very social animals — just like us, only ruled entirely by chemicals.

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Buy The Art of Science: A Natural History of Ideas on ✓ FREE SHIPPING on qualified orders. Hamblyn achieves that in this collection, as he showcases not only readable translations of key scientific ideas but situates those ideas in their.

Hamblyn teaches creative writing at Birkbeck, and the literary angle adds a great deal: from passages in novels to tips on how to write popular science. Even anti-science gets a look in, at its most extreme in DH Lawrence's notorious rant: "The Universe is dead for us … knowledge has killed the sun …" On the last page, Hamblyn quotes Richard Feynman 's riposte to this all-too-prevalent attitude: science "only adds.

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I don't see how it subtracts". And Hamblyn's book adds enormously to the pleasure that there is in science.

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