This is the story of JS Haldane, a lunatic physiologist who came up with the idea of sending canaries down mines, and was instrumental curing the Bends, creating the first gas masks, and such other achievements – usually by going down mines, up mountains, or just locking himself in airtight chambers and dosing himself with poison gas to see how long it took him to recover.
Haldane was a truly fascinating figure, but Goodman has tried the trick that almost never works unless you’re Simon Winchester: writing a three-hundred-and-fifty page book about someone who only has about two-hundred pages worth of accomplishments. You know the trick – you go into detail about the context of the settings and the interesting figures that interacted with the main subject. The problem is, only Simon Winchester has ever succeeded in doing this properly.
Great book, and highly recommended, but only because of the subject matter is fascinating despite its presentation.