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Название: The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone
Автор: Robinson A.
One of the problems with reading the biography (or writing) of a true Polymath, is that to really understand the man's undertakings you practically have to be a polymath yourself. Since Young's talents ran from optics to sound to medicine to magnetism to linguistics to force calculations, and it seems like everything in between, he is a difficult man to tie down. Robinson has done an admirable job of this though I found that some of the science was beyond me.
Considered a genius even by his detractors, the one problem with Young was that HE wanted to be a successful Physician but never put enough time into his practice to be successful. Young seems to be constantly running off at tangents as to what he wants to explore. Maybe the problem of his genius was that nothing (until near the end of his life) could keep his interest long enough for him to become a true expert. He has at least four theories or theorums named after him, but he never got to the real detail in many of his ideas because once he had started on a line of inquiry that proved theoretical results he went off somewhere else.
You could attribute some of his fault at non-detail to his Quaker upbringing. Quakers had little use for frivolity, ostentation or accessories. A true Quaker language would have only nouns and verbs, no reason for all those needless adjectives. In Young's writing he was consistently attacked for the 'tightness' of his writing, which sometimes
was to the point of uncomprehension. To 'protect' his medical practice he wrote many of his non-medical studies anonymously and never was one to 'blow his own horn'. Unlike most men of science from his era (like Humphry or Faraday) he was never knighted because he never campaigned for it.
His one controversy was over his translation of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone. He published the first breakthrough on the meaning of some of the symbols in the 'cartouches', but because he then went off to study something else, he was surpassed by Compillion who then refused to give him credit for originally cracking the code. Young later did get credit for translating the secondary language (demotics) that took the Egyptian to Greek. Once again, had he stayed with working on the Stone he would have (or should have) broken the hieroglyphic code himself.
Young was a man who couldn't learn enough, fast enough and that's what seemed to haunt him his whole life. He died at 56 and his passing was hardly noted at the time.
NOTE: there are two other books with the same title (The Last Man Who Knew Everything), one on Athanasius Kircher who lived before Young and one on Joseph Leidy (who mostly work in Medicine and Paleontolgy). Neither had the scope or legacy of Young.