Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011 - (Page 40)
off the shelf
The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America
by steven Johnson review by Elyse Cox
in The Invention of Air, steven Johnson Air offers a study of the age of revolution by following the life of British scientist, theologian, and thinker Joseph Priestley. Using the events in Priestley’s life, Johnson connects the scientific, religious, and political innovations of the late 18th century. as a biography, The Invention of Air chronicles such formative situations as the time Priestley spent with Benjamin franklin and the Club of honest Whigs, a coffeehouse group of intellectuals and scientists in London who mentored Priestley and encouraged his scientific experimentation. exploring Priestley’s extensive experiments with fermentation, mice, and mint leaves— through which he famously discovered the cycle of air vital to living organisms— Johnson offers biographical details about Priestley as well as a depiction of a time when people shared ideas not for profit, but for the betterment of mankind. Johnson also explains how advances in and the convergence of agriculture, evolution, theology, science, and politics enabled Priestley to make remarkable strides in various fields of learning. he explores these topics not just over the course of Priestley’s life, but over all of history. in one particularly fascinating passage, he explains how, in the devonian age, plants evolved to produce a molecule called lignin. this evolution led to a spike in the size of plants in prehistoric times; eventually, the remains of these plants would become a stockpile of Carboniferous fuel in Britain. the discovery and exploitation of this fuel would power the first wave of industrialization. Joseph Priestley witnessed england’s shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial society and the political upheaval that came with it. an advocate of progress in all its forms, Priestley was reviled by his conservative contemporaries. But when he emigrated to the United states in 1794, Priestley was welcomed as an intellectual of the age by notable politicians John adams and thomas Jefferson. during the emergence of political parties in america, Priestley supported Jefferson’s democratic republican Party and criticized adams’ federalist administration. through letters, Priestley vehemently attacked adams’ alien and sedition acts. When these letters were made public, adams could have used the law to punish Priestley and set a precedent for intolerance of political criticism. however, adams determined that the alien and sedition acts were not intended to punish intellectual dissidents. so Priestley’s critiques went unpunished, and the new nation lived up to its founding principles. history aficionados will enjoy reading about Priestley’s influence on and collaboration with thomas Jefferson, John adams, and Benjamin franklin, while science lovers will revel in the descriptions of Joseph Priestley’s advances in chemistry and his scattered approach to experiments. and all readers will appreciate how Johnson weaves together these and other topics across a wide span of time throughout The Invention of Air. Linking events through a fascinating combination of science and history, this book makes connections that will excite any inquisitive mind.
Elyse Cox is a junior at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, PA. She enjoys reading, drawing, and editing her blog. Elyse is a junior editor of The Muse, her school’s literary magazine, and participates in Academic Bowl. She has taken AP Microeconomics and United States Government and Politics through CTYOnline.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner features a fast-moving story with real and believable characters, and with today’s news directed on afghanistan, The Kite Runner is also timely and relevant. as i read through the plot, i got to glimpse afghanistan’s culture and history, which got me more interested in afghanistan’s current state than any news report could. —Marina tinone, 12, Ct Bloody Jack by l.A. Meyer Jacky faber is a 12-year-old orphan living on the streets of London in the early 1800s. she survives by stealing and begging, but she wants more than food to eat and a warm place to sleep: Jacky wants adventure and excitement. so when a ship in the royal navy is taking on cabin boys, Jacky decides to join the crew of the hms dolphin. now Jacky must use all her smarts to keep the crew from finding out that she is a girl. the result is an exciting, funny, and truly entertaining tale. —laura Hesse, 15, in
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/february 2011
In My Own Words
Becoming Environmentally Eloquent
Bacteria vs. Polystyrene: Getting the Toxins Out
Feat of Clay
What Lies Beneath
Clean & Green?
Selected Opportunities & Resources
Making the Most of Public School
One Step Ahead
Exploring Career Options
Off the Shelf
Planning Ahead for College
Creative Minds Imagine
Mark Your Calendar
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - January/February 2011