The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America
The Invention of Air A Story Of Science Faith Revolution And The Birth Of America Author:Steven Johnson National bestselling author Steven Johnson tells the fascinating story of Joseph Priestley-scientist and theologian, protégé of Benjamin Franklin, friend of Thomas Jefferson-an eighteenth-century radical thinker who played pivotal roles in the invention of ecosystem science, the discovery of oxygen, the founding of the Unitarian Ch... more »urch, and the intellectual development of the United States. As he did so masterfully in The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson uses a dramatic historical story to explore themes that have long engaged him: innovation and the way new ideas emerge and spread, and the environments that foster these breakthroughs.« less
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I find this book rather frustrating. The author clearly loves Joseph Priestley and spends an inordinate amount of time dreaming up scenarios of the man making it to America, pontificating on how such a man could have had so many intellectual blessings in life, and even trying to make direct correlations between his research and modern technology and philosophy. Unfortunately the author spends so much time wandering about setting the scene and making romanticized connections that he ultimately fails to show us how Priestley is so great. In comparing him to the greats like Benjamin Franklin and even Newton, Priestley comes across as a bit of a bungler. He was a man of his times, an intellectual yes, but so many of the discoveries that Johnson attributes to him were accidental and often misinterpreted. There are small tidbits of interesting information scattered throughout a bunch of pretty ramblings that I found myself not caring anymore about the subject matter. This book could have been condensed into a fabulous and noteworthy article or novella and it would have had more impact. I guess it boils down to that I feel like the author is trying too hard to put Priestley on the same pedestal as the founding fathers and the comparisons only serve to lesson Priestley's accomplishments. Priestley might have been a big man in the 18th century but now his most notable contributions are antiquated and what remains is anecdotal. After reading this book, I will primarily remember him as the guy that popularized the story of Benjamin Franklin and his electrical kite and that he developed soda water as an attempt to counteract scurvy for the navy.