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Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Journal of Chemical Education
AmericanScientist.org
Leonardo Digital Reviews
New Scientist

Keith J Laidler

to light such a candle

In order to understand the place of science in our society, it is important to distinguish it from technology, but at the same time to realise that the two are closely related. In to light such a candle, Keith J. Laidler looks at the relationship between basic science and the technology we are familiar with today.

Often the basic science precedes the technology, as in the case of Maxwell's equations leading to the development of radio. Sometimes it is the other way round, for instance a lot of work was done improving steam engines before the science of thermodynamics explained what was going on. These are two of the topics looked at in this book, which also include the invention of photography, how much the discovery of the electron made possible the development of electronics, and how X-ray scattering meant that the structure of large organic molecules could be found, leading to great advances in biology and medicine. There are also chapters on Michael Faraday and electric power and on the revolution in physics at the start of the 20th century. Laidler also discusses the changes in the organisation of science and the place of science in society.

So there's plenty of interest in this book, and it's suited to the reader without previous knowledge of the subjects dealt with. However, the history of technology is a difficult subject to write about, and I felt that Laidler didn't really manage to write the sort of book to enthuse it's readers about the subject - it's more the sort of book you'd find left on the shelves of a school library. But maybe I'm biased against this sort of book, so I'd suggest you check out some of the other reviews.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 400 pages  
ISBN: 0198500564
Salesrank: 2548264
Weight:1.81 lbs
Published: 1998 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $12.95
Marketplace:New from $1.99:Used from $3.04
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 396 pages  
ISBN: 0198500564
Salesrank: 4056453
Weight:1.81 lbs
Published: 1997 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from £17.46:Used from £6.59
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 396 pages  
ISBN: 0198500564
Salesrank:
Weight:1.81 lbs
Published: 1997 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 38.80:Used from CDN$ 8.98
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Product Description
In To light such a candle, renowned chemist and science historian Keith Laidler examines the progress of science and technology over the centuries, tracing the often separate paths of these pursuits, showing how they have ultimately worked together to transform everyday life. Faraday's pure research on electricity, for example, had immense technological implications, while Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic radiation led directly to the discovery of radio transmission, something of which Maxwell himself had no conception. Conversely, the early steam engines were by no means science-based, but they led directly to the science of thermodynamics, one of the most fundamental branches of pure science. Illuminated by many fascinating stories from the history of science, this book provides a powerful argument for the relevance of pure research, and gives the general reader and scientist alike an idea of the nature and importance of the links between science and technology.