Johnson takes us to those times when the world seemed filled with mysterious forces, when scientists were dazzled by light, by electricity, and by the beating of the hearts they laid bare on the dissecting table.
We see Galileo singing to mark time as he measures the pull of gravity, and Newton carefully inserting a needle behind his eye to learn how light causes vibrations in the retina. William Harvey ties a tourniquet around his arm and watches his arteries throb above and his veins bulge below, proving that blood circulates. Luigi Galvani sparks electrical currents in dissected frog legs, wondering at the twitching muscle fibers, and Ivan Pavlov makes his now-famous dogs salivate at ascending chord progressions.
For all of them, diligence was rewarded. In an instant, confusion was swept aside and something new about nature leaped into view. In bringing us these stories, Johnson restores some of the romance to science, reminding us of the existential excitement of a single soul staring down the unknown.
©2008 George Johnson; (P)2008 Random House Audio
"Johnson has a good feel for detail . . . and an easy touch with larger concepts . . . Johnson's lively book nicely evokes the lost world of the tabletop experiment . . . appealing." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Johnson engagingly dramatizes his stories with failure-crowned-by-success narratives, adding biographical sparks . . . Johnson exerts classic appeal to science readers: presenting the lone genius making a great discovery. Good to go in any library." (Booklist)
"George Johnson's The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments makes its point as elegantly as the experiments it describes." (Wall Street Journal)
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