Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer

Book review by Deane Barker tags: science

I love Steven Johnson. He’s one of my favorite authors. He writes mainly about the history of science and technology.

This book is about the history of how we began to live longer. The average lifespan has gone up so much in the last couple of centuries, and what caused that?

Here’s the list:

  • Vaccines

  • Epidemiology

  • Pasteurization and chlorination

  • Antibiotics

  • Automobile and industrial safety

  • Increased food production

He goes deep into each one and explains the history, what led to it, and how it changed the world. Along the way, he paints the picture of a society slowly moving forward and resolving “the catalog of evils” that plagued us for thousands of years.

No one writes science as well as Johnson. Each chapter is clear and compelling. (I highly recommend all his other books.)

Today, we truly don’t know how good we have it. There was so much that could have killed us in the past. And we slowly resolved each one.

This book made me hopeful for the future, despite the insanity that COVID has visited upon us.

Book Info

Steven Johnson

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