Jenny Uglow longlist author interview
3 October 2017
Led by Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society of Birmingham was formed from a group of amateur experimenters, tradesmen and artisans who met and made friends in the Midlands in the 1760s. Most came from humble families, all lived far from the centre of things, but they were young and their optimism was boundless: together they would change the world. Among them were the ambitious toy-maker Matthew Boulton and his partner James Watt, of steam-engine fame; the potter Josiah Wedgwood; the larger-than-life Erasmus Darwin, physician, poet, inventor and theorist of evolution (a forerunner of his grandson Charles Darwin). Later came Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen and fighting radical.
Jenny Uglow grew up in Cumbria and now lives in Canterbury. Her books include prize-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell and William Hogarth. The Lunar Men, published in 2002, was described by Richard Holmes as 'an extraordinarily gripping account', while Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, won the National Arts Writers Award for 2007 and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration was shortlisted for the 2010 Samuel Johnson Prize. The Pinecone, published in 2012, tells the story of Romantic visionary Sarah Losh and was described as 'a quiet masterpiece'. Her book In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon's Wars, 1793-1815 was longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. Jenny is Chair of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature.