15 July 2012


Keith Souter. Medical Meddlers, Mediums and Magicians: The Victorian Age of Credulity, illustrated by Laura Matine. The History Press, 2012.

Brian Clegg. Build Your Own Time Machine. Duckworth Overlook, 2012
The three topics in this book, the medical fringe, spiritualism and psychical research, and professional conjuring are large subjects indeed, each could easily fill tomes of several hundred pages. Therefore getting all three in less than 200 pages must of necessity mean that the treatment is rather superficial.
What is produced is essentially a soundbite history, with short sections, ranging from a few pages to a few lines on a wide variety of topics. Not without interest as an introduction perhaps, but the linking themes are inadequately covered.

Much of the interest in fringe medicine, mesmerism and spiritualism had less to do with credulity and more to do with the fact that science, as we understand the term, was itself in the process of invention. The world at the start of the nineteenth century was not far removed from the magical world of the middle ages, particularly in the field of medicine. A century full of new discoveries and inventions opened up the possibility that anything could be possible. Phrenologists and spiritualists alike thought they were being scientific, using empirical study rather than religious doctrine to explore the world. 

Brian Clegg's book is basic look at the possibilities of time travel, starting with a general discussion of the nature of time, relativity, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics etc. to prove a ground work for the possibilities. The various usual suspects; rotating cylinders of neutron matter, wormholes, tachyons and etc. are examined. He covers much the same ground as did Everett and Roman in Time Travel and Warp Drives but in rather less detail, and is less dismissive than they are, particularly of the work of Ronald Mallett using spinning lasers. This makes a nice introduction however. -- Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! I actually just found this really interesting spotlight on Ronald Mallett on THNKR, which talks a bit more about time travel and puts a really nice narrative to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MWUyRNUS3U&feature=share&list=PL029BF527773503E4