Cover image for Acid tongues and tranquil dreamers : tales of bitter rivalry that fueled the advancement of science and technology
Acid tongues and tranquil dreamers : tales of bitter rivalry that fueled the advancement of science and technology
White, Michael, 1959-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [2001]

Physical Description:
430 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Q125 .W48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Q125 .W48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From the laws of gravity to cyberspace, this book is a brilliant examination of some of the most momentous scientific advancements and the human minds and competition behind them.

Author Notes

Michael White is a British writer. He was born in 1959 and studied at King's College London.

He has been a science editor of British GQ and a columnist for the Sunday Express in London. From 1984 to 1991, he was a science lecturer at d'Overbroeck's College in Oxford before becoming a full-time writer, of both fiction and non-fiction.

Among his non-fiction works are: Coffee with Newton, Galileo Antichrist: A Biography, The Fruits of War, Tolkien: A Biography, Leonardo: The First Scientist, and Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. White also collaborated with John Gribbin on 'A Life in Science' Series, featuring biographies of Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin.

His novels include: The Art of Murder, The Borgia Ring, The Medici Secret, and Equinox. He has also written numerous novels under pseudonyms, including; the E-Force trilogy as Sam Fisher, and The Titanic Enigma, as Tom west.

Most recently, White co-wrote the international bestseller Private down Under, with James Patterson.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Few fracases attract attention like disputes among scientists, and from a crowded roster of rancor, White regales readers with eight conflicts. His prolific authorial record as a fine science biographer shines in his insights about the personalities involved in these stories. Driven by a variety of motivations, their conflicts operated atop a conviction that the truth of nature was transcendent--and races to be the first to behold the truth drives these stories. The purest example is the "elucidation" of DNA (White pointedly does not rate it a "discovery") by James Watson and Francis Crick. And, of course, Newton's campaign against Leibniz for priority credit for the invention of calculus was an unedifying exposure of the Englishman's spiteful, misanthropic character. With unwavering clarity, White covers a wide range of face-offs--between chemists Lavoisier and Priestley; between inventors Edison and Nikola Tesla in the struggle over alternating current; and between nations building the atom bomb and the moon rocket. Well conceived and well written for the general science audience. Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Scientific discovery is based upon the excitement of argument... the overwhelming effect [of which] has been to propel science forward." In several of the eight rivalries White (Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer, etc.) compares in this captivating work, the competition is more than personal: the fate of nations (e.g., the Allies versus the Axis powers in the battle to develop the atom bomb) and of industry (Thomas Edison versus Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse in the fight to harness electricity; Bill Gates and Microsoft versus Larry Ellison and Oracle in the struggle to dominate cyberspace) hang in the balance. While each story could stand on its own, White's skill at interweaving important themes across time and among rivalries brings the whole work together. For example, less than a century after Galileo encouraged scientific experiment and exchange, Isaac Newton stymied progress by keeping his discovery of calculus to himself. When he learned that a young German mathematician named Gottfried Leibniz had reached the same conclusions, Newton was furious. Charles Darwin, on the other hand, realized that science could only benefit from cooperation among its practitioners and from public awareness. Just before releasing his 1859 masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, to the world, Darwin befriended a young scientist named Alfred Wallace, who was also working on a theory of evolution. Together, they published the first scientific paper on the subject. Mixing intrigue, espionage and human drama, White has created an arresting narrative that should engage readers beyond fans of popular science. 15-city NPR campaign. (Mar. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved