The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius

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9780131343047: The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius

The biography of an individual who simply was the last man who knew everything.

Open any physics textbook and you will find the name of Thomas Young (1773-1829), the experimenter who first demonstrated the interference of light and proved that light is a wave, not a stream of corpuscles as maintained by Newton. Open any book on the eye and vision, and Young appears as the celebrated London physician who proposed how the eye focuses and the three-colour theory of vision, experimentally confirmed only in 1959. Open any book on ancient Egypt, and Young is credited for his crucial detective work in deciphering the Rosetta Stone and the hieroglyphic and demotic scripts. And this describes only the basics of his knowledge.

An exhibition of Young at London's Science Museum on his birth bicentenary stated that: "He probably had a wider range of creative learning than any other Englishman in history".

When invited to contribute to a new edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Young offered the following subjects: Alphabet, Annuities, Attraction, Capillary Action, Cohesion, Colour, Dew, Egypt, Eye, Focusm Friction, Halo, Hieroglyphic, Hydraulics, Motion, Resistance, Ship, Sound, Strength, Tides, Waves and "anything of a medical nature".  But he asked that his contributions be kept anonymous, to avoid harming his medical practice.

While not yet thirty he gave a course of lectures at the Royal Institution covering virtually all of known science. But polymathy made him unpopular in the academy. An early attack on his wave theory of light was so scathing that English physicists buried it for nearly two decades until it was rediscovered in France. But slowly, after his death, great scientists began to recognize his genius.

Readers who enjoy David Sobel's crisp historical biography and the intellectual curiosity of Patrick O'Brians Stephen Maturin will love Andrew Robinson's colourful portrayal of the last man who knew everything.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

'Meticulously researched, superbly written, richly illustrated and imbued with an enthusiasm for its subject that does not flag even when analysing some of Young's most abstruse studies. This book should be cherished by all who value originality, breadth of knowledge and intellectual passion.' --The New Scientist

'Thomas Young has long awaited a first-class biography, and Andrew Robinson has provided one. It is the best biography I have read for many years.' --Sir Patrick Moore, Astronomer and Presenter of The Sky at Night.

'Robinson's success in condensing his almost limitless scholarship for a general reader is commendable.' --FT Magazine

Daily Telegraph:

"Andrew Robinson must be congratulated for his mastery of some dauntingly diverse material."

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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