Peter Watson: The German Genius

The German Genius reappraises the legacy of Teutonic thought.

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The German Genius
Peter Watson
Simon & Schuster

Troubled by what he sees as a lack of recognition given to the achievements of Germanic thinkers and scientists since the late 1600s, Peter Watson has compiled a fabulously comprehensive tome which seems to detail every single one of them.

The book starts and ends with Watson chastising Britons for their obsession with the Third Reich, complaining that Hitler's 12 years in charge of Germany have overshadowed the accomplishments of the likes of the 18th-century philosopher Johann Herder, who ensured history became the basis of German culture, or Max Planck, the pioneer of quantum physics.

Watson characterises German genius as philosophical first, scientific or technical second. But he doesn't let the exploits of Albert Einstein and others speak for themselves, and his insistence on talking them up eventually becomes overbearing. Self-defeating, too: these 964 lovingly researched pages, of which over 100 are references and the index, just aren't as punchy as "two World Wars and one World Cup".