What are you reading? – 25 May 2017

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

May 25, 2017
Stack of books

Richard Joyner, emeritus professor of chemistry, Nottingham Trent University, is reading Eric Scerri’s A Tale of Seven Scientists and a New Philosophy of Science (Oxford University Press, 2016). “This short, readable book consolidates Eric Scerri’s reputation as both historian and philosopher of science. It celebrates the contributions of seven now-marginalised figures to our understanding of the electronic structure of atoms and chemical periodicity, made in the early years of the past century. His heroes are John Nicholson (mathematical physicist), Anton van den Broek (economist!), Richard Abegg (chemist), Charles Bury (chemist), John Main Smith (chemist), Edmund Stoner (physicist) and Charles Janet (polymath). Scerri shows how their work influenced the thinking of established names such as Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli. He also advances an alternative philosophy of science, in which progress is evolutionary and not revolutionary, in a direct challenge to Thomas Kuhn. To this scientist, his ideas seem plausible and well worthy of further exploration.”

R. C. Richardson, emeritus professor of history, University of Winchester, is reading Craig on Theatre, edited by J. Michael Walton (Methuen, 1983). “Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966) described himself as one of the ‘Impossibles’, ‘an impenitent independent’. Growing up at a time when the English theatre had reached its low point, Craig quickly abandoned acting as a career and took up direction and design in markedly experimental and challenging ways. Linked at one point with the legendary Isadora Duncan (whose lover he became), Craig worked a great deal in continental Europe and strove to reinvent the theatre as an art form. Marionettes, masks, minimalist set design and innovative use of stage lighting were some of his fixations. Although he viewed Shakespeare as the ‘best horse’ on which to bet in the English theatre, he believed, paradoxically, that his plays were unstageable if treated only as re-enactments of the original texts. As for a ‘National Theatre’, the country, he believed, was not yet ready to receive it.”

Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Daniel Rachel’s Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge (Picador, 2016). “Pop, politics and nostalgia collide. Walls Come Tumbling Down documents the development and disintegration of three big musical and political movements of the 1970s and 1980s. Commendably, the author has recorded and combined a series of first-person accounts from those who were there at the time, and through these stories, we learn about the remarkable force of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge. Inevitably, perhaps, participants want to claim that their movements genuinely changed society, and while there are some reasonable claims about impact (with the anthemic Free Nelson Mandela arguably the strongest), music and politics can’t coexist successfully for long. Did anything really change? Yes and no, but there are some excellent Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and Jerry Dammers stories on the way and some great memories, too.”

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Reader's comments (1)

Dear Richard, Thanks for your positive comments on my new book. All the more appreciated coming from a chemist. regards, Eric Scerri www.ericscerri.com

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