In the seven years since Isaac Asimov’s New Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science was published, the pace of scientific discovery and achievement has accelerated at a bewildering rate. To keep the modern reader abreast of the new advances in science, Dr. Asimov has revised and updated his classic work, now entitled Asimov’s Guide to Science, to include the latest developments in every field.
Acclaimed in its earlier edition as “the most exciting general account of modern science,” this encyclopedic work is meant to be read and enjoyed. In nontechnical language, it offers a comprehensive picture of the whole of modern science, explaining the basic ideas, highlighting the important developments, pointing out the meaning of today’s scientific discoveries. With wit, enthusiasm, and unequaled clarity, Dr. Asimov tells what has been learned of the earth and its atmosphere and the space beyond; the nature of matter and the atom; the natural laws and phenomena that have shaped our technology; the living cell and the chemistry of life; the biological heritage of mankind; the human brain and human behavior.
For the alert mind seeking the key to the technicalities of today’s science headlines, for the student eager to understand individual subjects in a meaningful context, for the professional scientist wanting to keep abreast of advances in neighboring fields, Asimov’s Guide to Science remains the virtual “bible of science.”
I must admit to having an unusually difficult time in giving this edition of the Guide to Science a low rating. It’s the first I owned—my parents bought it for me in the early 1970’s when they were on a vacation in New York—the first I read, and a constant companion throughout my teen years.
Another reason why I’m fond of it is that I have a copy of a translation of the first portion of the book published in mainland China in 1976. The translation is most notable for including a lengthy footnote early on, warning readers that Asimov subscribes to the mistaken philosophy of idealism, which misleads him into believing that we can extrapolate from our terrestrial experience to the galaxies that stretch as far as we can see.
It’s also the first edition of the Guide with which Asimov himself was satisfied. The first edition had been gutted by its editor, and the second had an index prepared by someone else which Asimov himself heartily disliked. This time, the whole book was his and was done to his satisfaction.
It’s only about 10% longer than The New Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science and does have some important updates. It is nonetheless not quite up to the level of the fourth and final edition, Asimov’s New Guide to Science, which is really the version of the book which I ought to recommend.