Published June 17, 2013
I recently sat for an interview (via Skype) with George Aranda of Science Book a Day, which featured The Philosophical Breakfast Club today. We chatted about PBC, my next book, how scientists can best communicate science to the general public, and what it was like to give a TED talk. You can view the interview on the Science Book a Day website (well worth checking out, by the way!) here or directly below.
Published May 28, 2013
I somehow managed to miss this wonderful review of The Philosophical Breakfast Club that appeared last year, in the British magazine Endeavour:
“Snyder’s excellent book achieves the impossible….All four of the main characters in her narrative are such dominant figures in the Victorian intellectual landscape that each of them would normally require…a substantial biography in their own right. Snyder manages to give the reader a deep look into the lives and intellectual achievements of all four in a scant 450 pages, a truly remarkable feat. Beyond this each of the protagonists was a polymath and together they cover a bewildering range of academic and semi-academic topics….When dealing with these each of these topics, and the contributions that one or more of the quartet made, Snyder first gives a concise but extensive history of the subject at hand. Each of these potted histories is good enough to serve as an encyclopedia article on the topic dealt with, a second remarkable achievement.
Snyder’s book is written for the educated non-expert, the layperson who is interested in nineteenth-century history, the Victorian age,the history of science and more. Her tone is light and she writes well and entertainingly. She meets her aim well and the book can be read by the non-expert with great pleasure. However, this is not just a popular book. Snyder’s research is first-class and the book…can be read with great profit by students of the history and or philosophy of science as well as practicing historians….
If you want a good entertaining, informative and stimulating read, then this is highly recommended.”
(vol. 36, March 2012, p. 1)
With thanks to the review’s author, Thony Christie, for bringing it to my attention…and, of course, for writing it!
The Philosophical Breakfast Club, and my recent TED Talk, were featured in Newsweek‘s piece “Around the World in Six Ideas,” written by Christopher Dickey:
Before There Were Scientists
The word “scientist” was not coined until 1833. Before that, scientific disciplines were the domain of mostly wealthy men and women who called themselves “natural philosophers.” They might have had curiosity cabinets full of fossils, concoctions, and pickled bits of anatomy, but laboratories were few and far between. Then, oddly, the eccentric, opium-imbibing poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge challenged this use of the metaphysical-sounding word “philosopher.” The response, as in “artist” or “cellist,” was “scientist.” Laura Snyder tells this story in her fascinating book The Philosophical Breakfast Club about the way four geniuses at Cambridge University revolutionized modern science to create the many disciplines that exist under that rubric today. But there’s a downside, too, she said in a recent TED talk. Her 19th-century heroes would have been “deeply dismayed” by the way science has been “walled off” from the rest of today’s culture. She finds it “shocking” that only 28 percent of American adults can say (correctly) whether humans and dinosaurs inhabited Earth at the same time or how much of the planet is covered in water. The majority, it seems, either don’t know, don’t care, or think those are, well, metaphysical questions.
From yesterday’s TED blog, a fun piece on seven groups of writers/artists/philosophers who transformed their world–and ours.
Here’s the TED Talk on the Philosophical Breakfast Club I gave at TED Global 2012. Share!
I’m excited to announce that the video of the talk I gave at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh in June will be available for viewing on the TED website starting Friday morning, at 11 am ET. I’ll post a link here when the video goes online!
Published April 3, 2013
A nice piece on consilience is just out in Philosophy Now magazine. Written by Toni Vogel Carey, the article highlights the different views of consilience held by Whewell/Herschel on the one hand and E.O. Wilson/Stephen Jay Gould on the other. Definitely worth a look by anyone interested in scientific confirmation.