The Philosophical Breakfast club

I’ve just reviewed a fine book for the Economist‘s More Intelligent Life: Laura J Snyder’s The Philosophical Breakfast Club, a history of four remarkable friends who between them helped define the modern scientific method during the Victorian era. The first few hundred words are below; you can read the whole thing on the Economist’s website.

Those who think of the 21st century as a headily unprecedented rush of innovation should pause to consider the first half of the 19th. Between 1800 and 1860, the world gained a giddy array of inventions, including the battery, the electric light, the steam engine, electromagnets, typewriters, sewing machines, dynamos, photography, propellers, revolvers, postage stamps, bicycles and the internal combustion engine. In the book “The Philosophical Breakfast Club”, Laura J Snyder deftly recreates this age of marvels through the lives of four remarkable Victorian men. In doing so, she tells a greater tale of the rise of science as a formal discipline, and the triumph of evidence-based methods of inductive reason.

Each of Ms Synder’s subjects could happily fill a book. Born within four years of each other, they convened the first of their “philosophical breakfasts” while contemporaries at Cambridge in 1812, and would spend much of the rest of their preternaturally dazzling intellectual lives in close contact…

Read the rest of the piece on the Economist website.