Free Radicals by Michael Brooks

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Free Radicals by Michael Brooks

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A history of those scientists who have broken the rules, played things their own way, and challenged the perception of scientists and quiet, methodical and logical. Michael Brooks' writing is as clear and engaging as ever. Highly recommended. Michael Brooks also submitted It Takes A Library... to Bookbag, explaining about the research process, including Michael's love of libraries and admiration of JBS Haldane.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Profile
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846684050

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We often have an image of scientists as quietly plodding away, with small breakthrough after small breakthrough. When the big breakthroughs come, they downplay things, and insist upon logical and level-headed caution. It's all very mild-mannered and polite. ...Or is it? The history of science is splattered with radicals, who'll do anything for success. There are those who mercilessly put down their rivals, those who use drugs to stimulate their breakthroughs, those who put themselves in harm's way in the pursuit of truth, and those who just plain go about things their own way, regardless of what anyone else says.

We're big fans of Michael Brooks' popular science writing here at Bookbag. 13 Things That Don't Make Sense ticked all the right boxes for us, and made it in to our Top Ten Books For Slightly Geeky People. Michael Brooks was also kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag and his responses were fascinating. It's no surprise, then, that Free Radicals continues in the same vein.

Rather than a chronological history of radicals, Brooks has collated them into groups of rule-breakers, masters of illusion, those who suffered for their work, and so forth. It creates a slightly different feel to many popular science books and adds a freshness to proceedings. At times, it can read like a list of anecdotes, but more often than not, it's cohesive and flows appropriately.

There are stories that you'll have heard before - William Shockley's involvement in Walter Brattain and John Bardeen's 1956 Nobel Prize, for example. However, Free Radicals treads plenty of new ground compared to other popular science books, and never feels stale. Michael Brooks' writing is, as ever, engaging and edifying. He writes clearly and expressively, pitching the tone perfectly. Free Radicals doesn't require any pre-existing science knowledge, just a broad interest in the subject. However, it's never dumbed down nor simplistic. It's exactly what you'd want popular science writing to be. Highly recommended.

My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

If you've not read it already, we heartily recommend his earlier work 13 Things That Don't Make Sense. Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers by Stephanie Pain looks at other fascinating moments in the history of science, and is well-worth a read.

Bookcomments.jpg It Takes A Library... by Michael Brooks was written for Bookbag in support of Free Radicals by Michael Brooks

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