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THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Posted on

The Northern Lights

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Lucy Jago
genre:
Nonfiction

We gave it a B

BBC journalist Jago delivers the latest in an increasingly wearying line of pop-science histories (see: Mark Kurlansky, Dava Sobel, Simon Winchester). Her subject? Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland, who uncovered the cause of the Northern Lights and produced ahead-of-his-time scholarship in the field of electromagnetic theory. All the familiar tropes of the genre are here: battles with the elements, a closed-minded scientific establishment, and love destroyed by obsessive work. Jago is a good writer and a tremendous researcher: Northern Lights brims with astonishing detail. But Birkeland himself isn’t especially compelling, and when other characters drift into his life — I was particularly fond of Helland, who used dried fish as bookmarks — you may wish you could stop the proceedings and follow them instead.