Ms. Arianrhod’s vivid account applies a modern moral lens to the rapacious actions of his fellow proto-colonists ... Throughout the latter half of the book, the Damoclean threat looming over Harriot is palpable, as the nodes of power shift around him ... To her credit, Ms. Arianrhod recommends against 'retrofitting Harriot into a celebrity star system' among the acknowledged luminaries of science ... Thomas Harriot deserves recognition, but in the epic tale of scientific advancement, he is just—and justly—a footnote.
Previous biographers...[never] fully addressed Harriot’s scientific contributions, as Arianrhod tries to do ... Arianrhod does not hesitate to call him a genius, and the evidence she presents is impressive. Yet she fully explores his rightful position in the pantheon only in a page-long endnote; I think this shortchanges the 'general reader' she seeks to enlighten. Some might find her technical passages challenging, although they are necessary to her argument. And it is irksome to see diagrams relating to Harriot’s navigational work in an appendix, rather than with the text they illustrate ... Arianrhod...has revealed a scientific mind, but the face is more elusive[.]
Robyn Arianrhod...adds the latest cornerstone to the edifice of Harriot’s resurrected reputation. Hers is an authoritative, often engrossing marriage of history and science ... By studying his life and career, Harriot helps us understand how modern mathematics and science began to emerge. Arianrhod’s is a significant achievement.
Bringing in many details of life in Elizabethan England, this biography offers a fuller understanding of Harriot’s life and an appreciation of his accomplishments. The many black-and-white illustrations include reproductions of portraits, documents, maps, and fellow Tiger passenger John White’s paintings of the Algonquins. With its spacious format and handsome design, the book offers a good look at a relatively unfamiliar historical figure.
... a largely harmonious meld of biography and science writing ... The author, a research fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, writes with the authority of a distinguished professor, placing Harriot's achievements in the context of his era and of the evolution of science ... Filling in the gaps of a transitional era with deep background, the author alternates between straight histories and a close examination of Harriot's calculations, experiments, and theories. Although designed for a general audience, readers must be prepared to wade through tables and formulae better grasped by fellow mathematicians. Nonetheless, the richness of biographical and historical detail more than compensates for the effort. The book is almost as much a biography of Raleigh, Harriot's longtime patron and friend, who emerges as a complex but remarkable man, and of Raleigh's formidable wife, Bess. A significant achievement that builds on previous works and takes the next step in establishing Harriot's genius.
Arianrhod’s seamless blend of storytelling and science puts Harriot into full historical context. Though he inhabited a world of court intrigues, plague, and political upheaval, Harriot’s unflagging intellectual curiosity set him apart then, and makes him more than worthy of respect now, as this fascinating biography amply proves.