Hanbury Brown is an Australian astronomer whose observatory has shut down. This has given him time to write a book both superficial and boring, filled with platitudes, rhetorical questions, pious hopes, Whig history and annoying inconsistencies. Scientists will profit little from reading it. Neither will it improve non-scientists' appreciation of science's role in our civilization.

The first two chapters survey the growth of science since the 17th century and attempt to sketch the leading ideas of physics and biology from that time to our own. Regrettably, the writing is fiat-footed and reveals no gift for illuminating simplification or explanatory unification. Readers will put down these chapters with no more real insight into thermodynamics or Bell's theorem than they brought to the work.

What is worse, these chapters show no influences of the revolution in the history, philosophy and sociology of science wrought over the last two decades. Scientific change is...

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