The Growth and Future of Human Knowledge
Penguin, London, 1990.
First published in 1982, this is a lively account of humanity's explorations of land, sea, sky, matter and the Universe at large, all handily compressed into 320-odd pages.
It is at once a history of ingenuity and technology, and a catalogue of wonders. These are the greatest detective stories of all time: the struggles to grasp the shape and size of the Earth, to plumb the depths of the oceans, to finally travel beyond the atmosphere, to delve into the invisible realms of the atom.
Asimov is helpful with the staggeringly large numbers involved in these investigations, and manages to make the obscure vivid. For anyone sincerely interested in how the world works, this would be a fine harbour to sail from.
For more about the history of some of the sciences involved, see Bowler.
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© Paul Taylor 2001