Giant leaps. Mankind's greatest scientific advances told by The Sun and the Science Museum

Giant leaps. Mankind’s greatest scientific advances told by The Sun and the Science Museum 

Jack Challoner and John Perry 

London, UK: Pan Macmillan 2006 | 144pp | ?12.99 (SB) ISBN 075222624X 

Reviewed by Tim Salkield 

It isn’t often that I laugh when reading a book about science, but this book made me laugh a lot, while at the same time informing me about many things I did not know. 

For a selection of major dates in the history of science, we are given a well-designed and researched page of information prepared by Jack Challoner from the Science Museum, London, UK, together with a humorous page written by John Perry as his The Sun newspaper would have reported the event if it had been in print at the time. Examples of The Sun headlines are Royal wee - Prince Ed installs 30 Crapper toilets at Sandringham (11 October 1881) and Unveiled - the first computer . and it fits in ONE room! (7 May 1949). This innovative approach results in a book which makes compulsive scanning and reading while at the same time describing some of the major scientific developments and placing them in their historical context. It covers a whole range of science and technology development, including about 10 major events in the chemical sciences. 

I well remember that most science correspondents of the daily newspapers in 1953 did not immediately recognise the significance of the Nature paper by Watson and Crick. The Sun, if it had been around at the time, would certainly not have published the sort of front page on the DNA double helix featured in this book. Unfortunately, major scientific advances do not make the front page of The Sun, or indeed any of our newspapers, as often as they should! Let’s hope that Giant leaps gets into the hands of many young readers, because it shows that science is not dull and boring, but has been championed by many amusing and interesting characters.