Steven Shapin is Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard and the author of several books, including The Scientific Life: A Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation.
 (October 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

A Theorist of (Not Quite) Everything

Hermann von Helmholtz with several of his inventions, including a Helmholtz resonator, an ophthalmometer, and an ophthalmoscope; painting by Ludwig Knaus, 1881

Helmholtz: A Life in Science

by David Cahan
In academic scientific biography, it’s the biggest names that justify the biggest books. It helps if the subject is reckoned to have “made the modern world.” Darwin’s modernity-making idea was evolution by natural selection, and Janet Browne’s magnificent two-volume biography accordingly weighed in at 1,200 pages. Newton’s world-changing discoveries included …