Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Well, not the world but my Mum's garden. Nice flowers though, and the garden's big enough.
Daniel Kehlmann's bestseller Die Vermessung der Welt. Not time to do this justice here really, an intriguing and, as it nears the end, surprisingly poignant novel about two great minds and men of the 19th century in Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss. The former a well-connected Prussian with a taste for travel and a genius and determination to use surveying and insight to measure, test and research the world via Spain and South America, finally returning via a stay in France to Berlin.
Less one for accomodating society, Gauss - a brilliant mathematician and difficult (to say the least) character who brusquely contacts his wife's best friend to marry him just after his wife's died in childbirth.
Something of an intelligent, well-researched and fluently written boy's own adventure story: it comes into its own as it portrays the two pillars of the scientific world as they age and younger men with newer instruments take over the stage and fete the heroes while sidelining them. Except Humboldt - on an almost ill-fated journey to Russia - is needed to use his techniques to steer the boat he's on to safety when all seems lost. And Gauss continues his astronomical viewings and learning Russian, inspired by Humboldt's trip.
A way to learn some history of science, and history, and well worth the trip.
It's been translated too - see the title of this post. Quercus publishing. Waterstone's etc.

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