The Lunar Men

The Lunar Men : The Inventors of the Modern World 1730-1810

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Led by the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society of Birmingham were a group of eighteenth-century amateur experimenters who met monthly on the Monday night nearest to the full moon. Echoing to the thud of pistons and the wheeze of snorting engines, Jenny Uglow's vivid and swarming group portrait brings to life the inventors, artisans and tycoons who shaped and fired the modern world. Here's just a few of the many great reviews for The Lunar Men: 'An exhilarating book, filled with wonders ...Jenny Uglow is the most perfect historian imaginable.' Peter Ackroyd, The Times 'An irresistible book, rich as a Christmas pudding in its detail. Uglow is the perfect guide, lucid, intelligent, sympathetic and wise. A wonderful subject has found its perfect historian.' Spectator 'A constant delight ...Beautifully illustrated with many plates and diagrams, The Lunar Men lays bare the forces that prepared the way for the modern world.'John Carey, Sunday Times 'I loved them, every one, from the vagaries of Dr Erasmus Darwin, who listed boredom and credulity along with scabies as human afflictions, to Josiah Wedgwood's dismissal of a chic sculptor's rococo models as 'the head of a drowned puppy'. Uglow, uniquely, can do things, thoughts and well-rounded people in the round. Nobody else writes so perceptively about the power of friendship. Great stuff.' Guardianshow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 608 pages
  • 122 x 198 x 34mm | 421.84g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 16pp colour and 60 b&w illustrations
  • 0571216102
  • 9780571216109
  • 66,944

About Jenny Uglow

Jenny Uglow grew up in Cumbria and now works in publishing. Her books include prize-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell and William Hogarth. The Lunar Men, published in 2002, was described by Richard Holmes as 'an extraordinarily gripping account', while Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, won the National Arts Writers Award for 2007 and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration was shortlisted for the 2010 Samuel Johnson Prize. Her most recent book In These Times, a comprehensive history of the home front during the Napoleonic Wars, was described as 'a remarkable book written by an award-winning historian at the peak of her powers'. She lives in more

Review Text

Biographer Jenny Uglow has already written extensively and brilliantly on 18th and 19th literature and culture, notably in biographies of Hogarth and Mrs Gaskell, and this new work can only add to her reputation for meticulous scholarship lightly worn. The 18th century was one of clubs, and the like-minded men of the title belonged to the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which met on the nearest Monday to the full moon, so that their various ways home would be well-lit. But this was no ordinary gathering, and Uglow describes how these gifted individuals nudged their whole society and culture towards today's world. Most of the Lunar men were provincial men, gifted amateurs and Nonconformists, the latter fact being a strength which freed them from the tyranny of tradition and established institutions; they were also united by a love of science and of the new. With astonishing energy, they built factories and canals, discovered new minerals, gases and medicines, created beautiful porcelain, added to the knowledge of botany, coined new words and wrote poetry. Considering themselves to be 'natural philosophers', they acknowledged no division between the sciences and humanities and were interested in politics, religion and education. They were usually dedicated family men and equally dedicated friends. The core of the Society was the quintet consisting of Erasmus Darwin, doctor, inventor and poet, manufacturer Matthew Boulton and his business partner James Watt, a pioneer of steam power, potter Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestley, the chemist responsible for the soda-water taken on Captain Cook's voyages, and a preacher and leader of Radical Dissent. But there were others equally talented who joined them in the exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas and information and in their love of invention and experiment. It is Uglow's great achievement to bind individual lives and the narrative together in a fascinating and memorable book. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

521 ratings
3.95 out of 5 stars
5 31% (160)
4 42% (220)
3 21% (110)
2 4% (19)
1 2% (12)
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