Hugh Aldersey-Williams
AUTHOR

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

My latest book is Dutch Light: Christiaan Huygens and the Making of Science in Europe, which won the Samuel Pepys Award in 2021. Huygens was the greatest scientist working in the vital period between Galileo and Newton, when the scientific revolution was gathering pace. He discovered Saturn's ring, invented the accurate pendulum clock, and devised a wave theory of light far ahead of its time. More even than Newton, he can be called the father of modern science, not only for his introduction of rigorous mathematics into the analysis of problems in physics, but also for his central role in building the pursuit of science as a Europe-wide collaborative project. Huygens, a Dutchman, became the leading light of the French Academy of Sciences and the first foreign fellow of the Royal Society of London. ‘The world is my country, science my religion,’ he once said. Previous books include: Tide: The Science and Lore of the Greatest Force on Earth, which explores the complex science of the tides with literary and artistic references and my own travels to tidally curious places. The Sunday Times called it ‘profound and powerful’ and ‘a delight to read’. The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century, which won the East Anglian Book Award and was longlisted for the American PEN Biography Award. Browne was an extraordinary figure of the 17th century – a physician, a philosopher, and writer and a myth buster. My book seeks to reclaim Browne from academic obscurity, and to show how his ideas - about science, nature, religion and tolerance - are as relevant now as they were during his own troubled times. Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements, a Sunday Times bestseller that gives a cultural history of the chemical elements. I curated an exhibition of contemporary artworks based on many of the elements at Compton Verney in 2015.
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