Review of Berlinski’s “The King of Infinite Space”

 

Euclid

Euclid

My review of David Berlinski’s The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements will be in this weekend’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. Just in time for the Oscars, there’s even a movie tie-in:

“One of the more curious historical revelations of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is that America’s 16th president was obsessed by a Greek mathematician from the fourth century B.C. While traveling from town to town as a young lawyer riding the Eighth Circuit in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln kept a copy of Euclid’s geometrical treatise, “The Elements,” in his saddlebag; his law partner Billy Herndon related that at night Lincoln would lie on the floor reading it by lamplight. Lincoln said he was moved to studyEuclid by his desire to understand what a “demonstration” was, and how it differed from any other kind of argument.”

The entire review can be read here.

 

Review of Three Books on the Birth of Modern Science

Athanasius Kircher’s ‘Mundus Subterraneous’ (1665), shows earth’s ‘central fire’ and underground canals

Athanasius Kircher’s ‘Mundus Subterraneous’ (1665), shows earth’s ‘central fire’ and underground canals

Happy 2013, everyone!

To start off the new year, here’s my latest for the Wall Street Journal: a review of three books that locate the origins of modern scientific practice where we may least expect it—in monks’s cells, magicians’ workshops, and alchemists’ hidden laboratories. Read the review here and in tomorrow’s print edition.

The books are: John Freely’s Before Galileo, John Glassie’s A Man of Misconceptions, and Lawrence Principe’s The Secrets of Alchemy.

“Origin of Species” Published 153 Years Ago Today

In honor of the anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species on November 24, 1859:

Footage of the moth that pollinates Angraecum sesquipedale, a Madagascar orchid, whose existence Darwin predicted 142 years ago. Because the nectar is so far down the neck of this orchid, Darwin knew that there had to be a species of moth with a “tongue” long enough to pollinate it. And now that moth has been found.

This is fascinating! Watch here.

Gift Guide: Science Books

My picks for holiday books about science appeared in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal. You can see which 2012 releases I suggest for gift giving here.

Review of Arianrhod’s “Seduced by Logic”

My newest review for the Wall Street Journal is out in today’s issue. To see what I had to say about Robyn Arianrhod’s Seduced by Logic: Emilie du Chatelet, Mary Somerville, and the Newtonian Revolution, see here.

Watch out on Saturday for my contribution to the Wall Street Journal’s annual Book Gift Guide. And, coming in December, a longer essay on the birth of modern science in the 17th century.

Philosophical Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners . . . and More

 

TED Global 2012 Edinburgh

TED Global 2012 Edinburgh

After I returned from TED Global this summer, I was asked to contribute a piece about my experiences at TED by the magazine Design Mind. It has just come out, and can be read here.

 

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!!

 

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace

In honor of the day set aside to remember Ada Lovelace, friend and collaborator of Charles Babbage (and a major player in one chapter of The Philosophical Breakfast Club), I’m passing along two links: one serious, one a bit silly, but both apropos of Lovelace and her accomplishments.

First, the serious. A recent study by Yale University found that women in science are still discriminated against in classrooms and laboratories. How sad that perceptions of women’s abilities have not changed as much as we would like to think from Lovelace’s times in the 19th century. On this day we should remember that although women have come a long way since the 1800s, there is still much work to be done.

Next, the silly (but wonderfully so): a post on the relation between Ada Lovelace and her female friend and mentor, Mary Somerville by the talented Sydney Padua—who is writing a steampunk comic about Lovelace and Babbage.

Food for thought on Lovelace day.

Oliver Sacks “Inspired” by “Philosophical Breakfast Club”

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I’m incredibly pleased and excited that Oliver Sacks included The Philosophical Breakfast Club on a list of five science biographies that have inspired him.

Sacks is one of my favorite non-fiction writers, in part because he is able to connect wonderfully with a broad readership to interest them in, and educate them on, complex scientific issues related to neurology and psychology. He’s definitely one of the writers who inspires me, so it’s particularly wonderful to see my book on his list.

You can see the list here.

I can’t wait to read his new book, Hallucinations, out on Nov. 6!

“It’s So Interesting! And Surprisingly Funny!” — Not Raising Brats

I can’t resist posting this new review from the blog “Not Raising Brats,” because I love that a reviewer pointed out the humor in the book. I laughed a lot while writing it, and it’s great to know that I wasn’t the only one who found the exploits of the philosophical breakfast club members kind of hilarious at times!! (The humor was especially important to me because of some difficult stuff I was going through while writing the book.)

Of course, I also love that the reviewer calls my book “excellent” and ends with: “I really loved this one”:

“EXCELLENT….I annoyed my husband to no end reading excerpts from this book. It’s just so interesting! And surprisingly funny! The club of the title refers to one created by four leading ‘philosophers’ (ie scientists) at the turn of the 19th century. These guys coined the term ‘scientist.’ They charted the tides and the stars and created the first computer. They also drank heavily in college and wrote sarcastic letters to each other. I really loved this one.”

You can see the review, and read others, here.

Reforming Philosophy Now Available for Kindle

I am very happy to announce that my first book, Reforming Philosophy, is now available in an inexpensive Kindle edition.

Some readers of The Philosophical Breakfast Club might be interested in a more detailed discussion of William Whewell’s philosophy of science, and its relation to his view of moral philosophy, economics, and politics. In this book I discuss these issues in the context of Whewell’s decades-long debate with the philosopher, economist and Parliamentarian John Stuart Mill.

Here’s what some reviewers said when the book came out:

“Snyder’s book is history of philosophy at its best”–Times Literary Supplement

“In this impressive study of two major Victorian intellectuals, Snyder displays both analytical acumen and historical sensitivity; she has written a book that will be read with profit and pleasure by anyone interested in the history of moral, political, and philosophical reflection on science.” — Isis

“Snyder’s impressive achievement is not only to register a significant improvement in our understanding of the technicalities of this debate over the proper method of scientific reasoning, but also to bring the debate alive in a way that illuminates the whole terrain of mid-Victorian intellectual life.” — American Historical Review

“This is the definitive work and must be on the shelves of any library with pretensions to completeness about the [Victorian] age.” — Journal of British Studies

You can purchase the Kindle edition of Reforming Philosophy here.