chapter  17
PHYSICS
ByDIRK VANDERBEKE
Pages 11

In Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love, a science journalist muses about the development of science and literature since the nineteenth century:

It was the nineteenth-century culture of the amateur that nourished the anecdotal scientist. All those gentlemen without careers, those parsons with time to burn. … The dominant artistic form was the novel, great sprawling narratives which not only charted private fates, but made whole societies in mirror image and addressed the public issues of the day. Most educated people read contemporary novels. Storytelling was deep in the nineteenth-century soul. Then two things happened. Science became more difficult, and it

became professionalized. It moved into the universities, parsonical narratives gave way to hard-edged theories that could survive intact without experimental support and which had their own formal aesthetic. At the same time, in literature and in other arts, a newfangled modernism celebrated formal structural qualities, inner coherence and selfreference. A priesthood guarded the temples of this difficult art against the trespasses of the common man.