A Short History of Nearly Everything

6112 words 25 pages
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a popular science book by American author Bill Bryson that explains some areas of science, using a style of language which aims to be more accessible to the general public than many other books dedicated to the subject. It was one of the bestselling popular science books of 2005 in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies.[1]

instead describing general sciences such as chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics. In it, he explores time from the Big Bang to the discovery of quantum mechanics, via evolution and geology.
Bryson tells the story of science through the stories of the people who made the discoveries, such as Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.
Background
Bill Bryson
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Crucially, this hugely varied terrain is not presented as a series of discrete packages. Bryson made his name writing travelogues and that is what this is. A single, coherent journey, woven together by a master craftsman.
The book's underlying strength lies in the fact that Bryson knows what it's like to find science dull or inscrutable. Unlike scientists who turn their hand to popular writing, he can claim to have spent the vast majority of his life to date knowing very little about how the universe works. Tutored by many of the leading scientists in each of the dozens of fields he covers, he has brought to the book some of the latest insights together with an amusingly gossipy tone. His technique was to keep going back to the experts until each in turn was happy, in effect, to sign off the account of their work he had put together. In short, he's done the hard work for us.
Bryson enlivens his accounts of difficult concepts with entertaining historical vignettes. We learn, for example, of the Victorian naturalist whose scientific endeavours included serving up mole and spider to his guests; and of the Norwegian palaeontologist who miscounted the number of fingers and toes on one of the most important fossil finds of recent history and wouldn't let anyone else have a look at it for more than 48 years.
Bryson has called his book a history, and he has the modern historian's taste for telling it how it was. Scientists, like all

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