History and Philosophy of Science, Reviews

Advances and abberations in earth science

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In the January 9 issue of the Times Literary Supplement reviewer Richard A. Fortey takes note of Pascal Richet’s new book, A Natural History of Time for its fascinating tale of the scientific quest to discover the age of the earth. Fortey writes:

Pascal Richet is a geophysicist, and well able to explain the complexities of the discoveries that led from Crooke’s tube through to those of Pierre and Marie Curie, and on to the discovery of isotopes of lead and uranium. Richet never short-changes the reader on the science, and his grasp of more than a thousand years of speculation about our origins is unfailingly impressive.…
My own pleasure, and this may be perverse, was in discovering some of the forgotten figures, like M Le Bon and his black light, or Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, who thought that “there was nothing strange in assuming that rocks had semen.” In a curious way, the doomed aberrations of science mark out the changes in zeitgeist more effectively than the triumphs of the famous names. Newton’s obsession with chronology is as informative of the times in which he lived as his triumphs in mathematical physics.…
I cannot imagine a better attempt at such a broad sweep through science and history.

Read the rest of the review on the TLS website.