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Mary Wakefield
New Scientist

Reto Schneider

The Mad Science Book

The idea of a Frankenstein style mad scientist is a myth isn't it? Well, certainly most scientists I've come across are not like that. But reading Reto Schneider's book, The Mad Science Book: 100 Amazing Expreiments from the History of Science, showed that there might be some truth behind the myth.

The book tells of the experiments from which Mary Shelley got her ideas, such as making the head of an executed man grimace by applying an electric voltage. Even in the twentieth century there's the story of the soviet scientist who attached the living head of one dog to the body of another dog. But the book has much more than these grisly type of experiments. In fact there are more from the psychological sciences, such as that of Stanley Milgram showing that ordinary people were apparently willing to subject others to huge electric shocks - if told to do so by someone in authority. (It's interesting that those in authority now ban such experiments).

There is a website for the book at, where you can see film clips showing some of the experiments. The book is not particularly suitable for younger readers, who may be upset by some of the grislier stories, and there are also quite a few experiments mentioned which are related to sex. However, it is written in a humorous way and I think that most people will find it a fun book to read. It might also help to explain why scientists have acquired a generally undeserved reputation.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews