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Under The Microscope

KEY MOMENTS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY by Keith Wicks; Hamlyn, 1999 (Reed); 191 pp; $49.95

Reviewed by Vicki Hyde

What better way to start the new year (if not new millennium) than with a book that looks at milestone inventions from "the wheel to the Web".

Sixteen key areas are looked at including obvious items such as energy, medicine, and communications through to the less obvious, but nonetheless technologically significant developments in spinning and weaving, measuring and domestic appliances. For each area, Wicks runs through the important developments over the past 10,000 years or so (even the digital computers section starts off with the Egyptians in 3,000 BC counting in base 10).

Wicks's writing is clear and straightforward, if lacking the enthusiasm of a James Burke; the design and illustrations add greatly to the text. I suspect that its physical size and its snapshot approach will see it consigned it to the library reference shelf where it will serve as a useful homework reference for the younger set. That would be a shame as these key moments are ones which demonstrate well just how far we have come.

Vicki Hyde is the editor of New Zealand Science Monthly.