This book was first published in England as The Adventures of Sir Thomas Browne in the 21st Century.  Neither title describes the book very accurately.  It is really an extended meditation on Browne’s life and interests as they strike a 21st-century science writer who likes to ride a bicycle and who, like Browne, lives in Norwich.  In fact, the book begins with the author riding his bicycle from Bury St. Edmunds to Norwich because Browne made the same journey—not, of course, on a bicycle—350 years earlier after being called as an expert witness in a witchcraft trial.  The trial ended badly for the two witches, and Browne’s noncommittal evidence had not discouraged the jury’s guilty verdict.  “What was he thinking?” Aldersey-Williams asks himself as he pedals back to Norwich.  This is a question to which there is no answer, but he is cheered up by seeing a kingfisher and remembering that Browne had rigged up a simple experiment to prove that dead kingfishers, contrary to popular belief, did not make good weathervanes.

Aldersey-Williams is obsessed, he says, with Browne, a fascinating combination of writer and protoscientist who, he believes, is “insufficiently known and unjustly neglected” by literary people and scientists alike.  It is certainly true that Browne is not likely to appear...

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