The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow.

The Lunar Men: The Friends Who Made the Future 1730-1810

The Lunar Men tells the stories of the members of the 18th century Lunar Society. This was a group of men who met on the Monday closest to the full moon each month to discuss matters relating to the science of the time. They didn’t call it ‘science’ – the word wasn’t used until the 19th century. To them it was ‘natural philosophy’, which covered all aspects of science from botany to zoology.
Some of the members of the Society are famous, such as James Watt and Josiah Wedgwood. Others, like Thomas Day, are less well-known. Erasmus Darwin is possibly best known for being the grandfather of Charles Darwin, yet he had ideas about evolution long before Charles was born.

The Lunar Men covers all aspects of the lives of its members – marriages, children, family bereavements, as well as their inventions and/or discoveries. The book sets these lives in the context of the time. National and international events all had an impact on the men and their activities. It’s interesting to see how much more tolerant most people have become to those who hold different views.

Although it’s not a light read, I did start to relate to some of the Lunar Men. When one of them lost a son at just three days old, I actually felt sad for him. The Lunar Men shows how far our scientific knowledge has advanced in the last 250 years. It also shows a bygone age. Science has advanced so much that it’s impossible for a layman to have an impact, with the exception of astronomy.

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