On this page you will find excerpts from the press (radio and print) which concern The Glass Bathyscaphe.

In The New Statesman Books of the Year of 2nd December, 2002, Ann Widdecombe wrote:

"This history of glass [The Glass Bathyscaphe] will make you look at everyday objects with new eyes. Erudite but not indigestible, lucid and informative, it's a good and sometimes controversial read."

In The Sunday Telegraph Book section of 1st December, 2002, Jeremy Paxman wrote:

"Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin's The Glass Bathyscaphe is a fascinating account of how the invention and development of glass changed history. Among many intriguing theories canvassed was the role that the development of lenses to deal with middle-aged eyesight played in the advance of western civilisation: the authors believe its significance cannot be exaggerated."

In The Sunday Times of 28th July, 2002, Richard Hamblyn wrote:

"Images of glass, and of its special fragility, have returned throughout the literature of philosophy; and one of the many pleasures to be had from The Glass Bathyscaphe is the appreciation of why that might be so: glass, as Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin demonstrate on every page of this fascinating book, is one of the great technologies of thought…The Glass Bathyscaphe presents intriguing arguments, which range generously and enjoyably over a wide field of inquiry: there cannot, after all, be that many books in which Eeyore and Thomas Edison sit next to one another in the index. And although much of the argument is necessarily speculative, it is presented with energy and insight. By piercing together 'the shattered history of this extraordinary substance,' Macfarlane and Martin have made a valuable contribution to the wider social history of technology."


In The Times of 20th July, 2002, Fiona Hook wrote:

"This is a fascinating book, both for its subject matter and as a perfect demonstration of the anthropologist’s ability to spot causal links by viewing a society over a very long timespan and drawing comparisons with other cultures. The influence of glass is summed up in an appendix that details 20 experiments, by the likes of Aristotle and Otto Stern, that changed the world."


In the Financial Times of 20th July, 2002, Jonathan Sale wrote:

"It is like one of those "alternative history" novels in which Hitler won the war or the Reformation never happened: a world without glass. The authors of this intriguing book begin by un-inventing glass. Gazing into a crystal ball (which itself wouldn't exist, being made of glass) they point out that we would have no windows to look out of and no spectacles with which to admire the view or to watch television…Mirrors, according to Macfarlane and Martin, could have had a crucial effect on the art of the Renaissance by showing how a wide area could be pinned down on a small canvas - and given perspective. Even more intriguingly, they suggest that windows provided a Renaissance artist with a fresh focus, by framing the world if he was looking out and by defining an interior if he was gazing in…The two authors write stylishly, without the joins showing."


In New Scientist of 20th July, 2002, Julian Henderson wrote:

"...FROM stained-glass windows and light bulbs to test tubes and telescopic lenses, glass is extraordinary stuff. This book does it justice. The Glass Bathyscaphe covers the roles glass has played in the past, and so draws on a huge range of fields: archaeology, the history of technology, science and art, the psychology of perception and philosophy. Then Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin go one better in revealing how all these disciplines interconnect, to intriguing effect…The authors' argument that glass lenses were instrumental to critical advances in science in the 17th century onwards is compelling and persuasive…All in all, The Glass Bathyscaphe is a stimulating read that will make you think about the material world in a new way."


In The Spectator of 20th July, 2002, Robert Macfarlane wrote:

"...This is an intelligent book which, unlike so many of these ‘how x changed the world’ titles, manages clearly to locate its subject matter in relation to history’s grand narratives…Its central conceit — that glass is the invisible substance of history, something we overlook as well as look through — is a lovely one."


In The Evening Standard of Monday, 8th July, 2002, the journalist Paul Barker wrote:

" …The Glass Bathyscaphe is as eccentric, and illuminating, as David Hockney's recent book, Secret Knowledge…Now one of Britain's finest anthropologists…tells the story of how glass changed the world."

"Macfarlane…is one of the most perceptive writers we have, focusing on the great turning points in history."


In The Observer of Sunday, 7th July, 2002, Lisa Jardine (Chair of Booker Judges, 2002) wrote:

"...Along with the crate of books I'll need to read before the Booker meeting in August, I'll be taking The Glass Bathyscaphe: How Glass Changed The World by Alan Macfarlane and Gerry Martin (Profile Books, £15). The authors take glass as a 'case study' for the idea that the Renaissance and scientific revolution go hand in hand. Just the kind of story I love, because its insights depend on demolishing the boundaries between art and science, West and East."


click here to download Alan's Macfarlane's article [in PDF format] on glass in the Times Higher Education Supplement of 21st June, 2002, entitled 'A Transparent Revolution'.