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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America by Steven Johnson

Meandering book felt more like an expanded magazine article 

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)
I am a history teacher and thought The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America might be an interesting new perspective on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution from the perspective of English theologian, philosopher and scientist Joseph Priestley.

We get a hefty dose of scientific history which is appropriate but not my area of interest. We don't get a lot of detail on his theological writings that caused him to flee England for America and later made him unpopular with some politicians in America as well.

We also get a lot of off-topic meanderings such as his pages full of information on the Carboniferous era (milions of year ago) that form a rhetorical touchstone for the rest of the book but mostly seemed to fill the book with extra pages.

In fact, the large-type print, off-topic musings and small number of pages (204 in the uncorrected manuscript I read) left me more informed than I already was on Priestley but also feeling more like I'd been on a general tour of late 18th century Enlightenment science rather than having read a biography.

I rate this biography 3 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on January 31, 2009.

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