The origin of the scientist

By Grant Jacobs 01/11/2013


In this TED lecture Laura Snyder introduces the origins of the term ‘scientist’ (hint: for that don’t know, it’s surprising modern), the Philosophical Breakfast Cub and ‘modern’ science, closing with an appeal to science communication. Among other things, it’s interesting to learn that the Royal Association dropped questions after presentations as being ungentlemanly!

This will be too light for many of those familiar with this story, but for those new to it it’s a nice gloss of the beginning of the modern scientist. For those wanting more, a list of several popular science books that might interest readers follows the video.

This list is by no means complete, nor a ‘best of’. Readers are welcome to suggest others in the comments below.

The Philosophical Breakfast Club – the speaker’s book on group whose name gives the title of her book.

The Lunar Men – Jenny Unglow’s book on the Birmingham’s Lunar Society, who met at each full moon and were instrumental in starting the Industrial Revolution.

The cogwheel brain – Laura’s talk mentions the Babbage engine—Babbage being a member of TPBC—this book covers Babbage’s engines and efforts by the Science Museum to build them. The author, Doron Swade, headed the six-year project to construct the calculating engine that is in the Science Museum. (Don’t think is a dry subject; it’s an good read. The Goodreads site also lists The difference engine, which I suspect is the same work under a different title.)

Science: a history or The scientists – Much wider in scope is John Griffin’s telling of science’s origins.

Seeing Further – Edited by Bill Bryson, this carries a collection of well-regarded writer’s accounts of different aspects of the science and history associated with the Royal Society of London.

Other reading at Code for life:

The bosom serpent

Science-y reading

Wellcome diversions

Royal science

Teaching kids critical thinking