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Prize for wonder of science past

15 September 09 12:42 GMT

A book about the great innovators who drove science forward at the end of the 18th Century has won the 2009 Royal Society prize for popular writing.

The Age of Wonder details the work of people like Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy and William Herschel who transformed the way we view the world.

Author Richard Holmes receives a £10,000 cheque for his efforts.

The judges' chairman, chemist and Nobel Laureate Sir Tim Hunt, called The Age of Wonder a book about heroes.

"It's extremely accessible, wearing its science lightly while placing it within a much wider cultural context," he said.

"We all found it a wonderful, eclectic and compelling read, completely absorbing, romantic and original. An extraordinary achievement and a truly worthy winner."

Richard Holmes is a professor of biographical studies at the University of East Anglia.

His book was also shortlisted for the Dingle Prize, which honours publications about the history of science.

The Royal Society award is one of the major publishing events of the year in the UK. Previous winners have included Bill Bryson, Stephen J Gould, Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking.

The full shortlist for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books was:

The Age of Wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of Science by Richard Holmes (Harper Press)

What the Nose Knows: The science of scent in everyday life by Avery Gilbert (Crown Publishers)

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (Harper Perennial)

Decoding the Heavens: Solving the mystery of the world's first computer by Jo Marchant (William Heinemann)

The drunkard's walk: How randomness rules our lives by Leonard Mlodinow (Penguin)

Your Inner Fish: The amazing discovery of our 375-million-year-old ancestor by Neil Shubin (Penguin)

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