Revolutionary Science: Transformation and Turmoil in the Age of the Guillotine

Pegasus Books
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The surprising and sometimes shocking history of the scientific innovations in Paris during the French Revolution, by the author of Darwin’s Ghost. Paris at the time of the French Revolution was the world capital of science. Its scholars laid the foundations of today's physics, chemistry and biology. They were true revolutionaries: agents of an upheaval both of understanding and of politics.

The city was saturated in scientists; many had an astonishing breadth of talents. The Minister of Finance just before the upheaval did research on crystals and the spread of animal disease. After it, Paris's first mayor was an astronomer, the general who fought off invaders was a mathematician while Marat, a major figure in the Terror, saw himself as a leading physicist. Paris in the century around 1789 saw the first lightning conductor, the first flight, the first estimate of the speed of light and the invention of the tin can and the stethoscope. The theory of evolution came into being.

Perhaps the greatest Revolutionary scientist of all, Antoine Lavoisier, founded modern chemistry and physiology, transformed French farming, and much improved gunpowder manufacture. His political activities brought him a fortune, but in the end led to his execution. The judge who sentenced him—and many other researchers— to death claimed that "the Revolution has no need for geniuses."

In this enthralling and dazzling book, acclaimed science writer Steve Jones shows how wrong this was and takes a new look at Paris, its history, and its science, to give the reader dazzling new insight into the City of Light.

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About the author

Steve Jones is professor of genetics at University College London. He is the author of The Darwin Archipelago; Y: The Descent of Man; Darwin's Ghost; Almost Like a Whale: The Origin of Species; and The Serpent’s Promise. Jones is the winner of Royal Society Faraday Medal for the Public Understanding of Science. He lives in London.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Pegasus Books
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Published on
Jan 10, 2017
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9781681773735
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / General
History / Modern / 18th Century
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the 1770s through the 1820s the French scientific community predominated in the world to a degree that no other scientific establishment did in any period prior to the Second World War. In his classic Science and Polity in France: The End of the Old Regime, Charles Gillispie analyzed the cultural, political, and technical factors that encouraged scientific productivity on the eve of the Revolution. In the present monumental and elegantly written sequel to that work, which Princeton is reissuing concurrently, he examines how the revolutionary and Napoleonic context contributed to modernization both of politics and science.

In politics, argues Gillispie, the central feature of this modernization was conversion of subjects of a monarchy into citizens of a republic in direct contact with a state enormously augmented in power. To the scientific community, attainment of professional status was what citizenship was to all Frenchmen in the republic proper, namely the license to self-governance and dignity within the respective contexts. Revolutionary circumstances set up a resonance between politics and science since practitioners of both were future oriented in their outlook and scornful of the past.


Among the creations of the First French Republic were institutions providing the earliest higher education in science. From them emerged rigorously trained people who constituted the founding generation in the disciplines of mathematical physics, positivistic biology, and clinical medicine. That scientists were able to achieve their ends was owing to the expertise they provided the revolutionary and imperial authorities in education, medicine, warfare, empire building, and industrial technology.

“[A] tale of power, perseverance and passion . . . a great story in the hands of a master storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure German princess who became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history. Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution. Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly brought to life. History offers few stories richer than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, an eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
 
“[A] compelling portrait not just of a Russian titan, but also of a flesh-and-blood woman.”—Newsweek
 
“An absorbing, satisfying biography.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Juicy and suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“A great life, indeed, and irresistibly told.”—Salon
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • USA Today • The Boston Globe • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Salon • Vogue • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Providence Journal • Washington Examiner • South Florida Sun-Sentinel • BookPage • Bookreporter • Publishers Weekly

BONUS: This edition contains a Catherine the Great reader's guide.
Without the Sex Pistols there would be no punk. And without Steve Jones there would be no Sex Pistols. It was Steve who, with his schoolmate Paul Cook, formed the band that eventually went on to become the Sex Pistols and who was its original leader. As the world celebrates the 40th anniversary of punk--the influence and cultural significance of which is felt in music, fashion, and the visual arts to this day--Steve tells his story for the very first time.

Steve Jones's modern Dickensian tale began in the street of Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, West London, where as a lonely, neglected boy living off his wits and petty thievery he was given purpose by the glam art rock of David Bowie and Roxy Music. He became one of the first generation of ragamuffin punks taken under the wings of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.

In Lonely Boy, Steve describes the sadness of never having known his real dad, the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather, and how his interest in music and fashion saved him from a potential life of crime spent in remand centers and prisons. He takes readers on his journey from the Kings Road of the early '70s through the years of the Sex Pistols, punk rock, and the recording of "Anarchy in the UK" and Never Mind the Bollocks. He recounts his infamous confrontation on Bill Grundy's Today program--the interview that ushered in the "Filth and the Fury" headlines that catapulted punk into the national consciousness. And he delves into the details of his self-imposed exile in New York and Los Angeles, where he battled alcohol, heroin, and sex addiction but eventually emerged to gain fresh acclaim as an actor and radio host.

Lonely Boy is the story of an unlikely guitar hero who, with the Sex Pistols, transformed twentieth-century culture and kick-started a social revolution.
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