Aside from talking about the various individuals and their discoveries, each section not only contains illustrations which help to explain their significance, Jackson also includes explanatory notes ensuring readers won't have any trouble understanding what's being discussed. While this is not some simplistic "science made easy" type of book, Jackson has the ability to make the material accessible and interesting. Not being a person with a significant background in the sciences I was pleased to see he doesn't make any assumptions about his reader's knowledge. Yet at the same time not once do you have the feeling that he's talking down to you. It's like having a well educated and personable tour guide through the history of each subject.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that he includes such historical events like Hennig Brand (a 17th century German alchemist) being the first on record to discover a new element. Boiling his urine down, he watched as it began to glow in the dark and named the resultant powder phosphorus. But it's not just elemental scientists who know how to have fun; mathematicians are no slouches either. The Russian Ladislaus Bortkiewicz developed one of the main tools used in statistics in 1898 when he computed the odds of a Prussian cavalryman being killed when kicked by a horse. Or did you know astronomers have come up with a term for the opposite of The Big Bang which created the universe? They call it the Big Crunch--but don't worry they figure we've got a few billion years until all of matter collapses in on itself.
Those unfamiliar with the history of science might also be surprised to discover that Astronomy has proven to be one of the most contentious issues down through the ages--at least in the Western world. Starting with Aristotle in ancient Greece, it was believed the earth was at the centre of the solar system and everything, including the sun, revolved around us. This fit in nicely with the Catholic Church's view of the world, and anybody who disagreed with them ran into all sorts of trouble with the Inquisition. In spite of being able to offer conclusive proof that the Earth and the other known planets revolved around the sun, Galileo Galilei, facing jail time and potential burning at the stake for heresy, was forced to recant his theories. It wasn't until 1992 that the Vatican apologized for its mistreatment of Galileo.