Batchelor was Taylor's graduate student, and went on to become a noted authority on turbulence in his own right. His biography of his mentor is admiring, and paints a picture almost free from blemishes: but by all accounts Taylor was highly admirable and remarkably naïf. Many eminent scientists have been privileged to lead happy, undramatic, creative lives, and Taylor more so than most (though he and his wife decided to travel a few hundred miles across Borneo in 1929, apparently simply on the grounds that it would be neat, and they were passing through southeast Asia anyway en route to a conference in Japan, which is out of left field, to say the least). Quite properly, therefore, Batchelor puts his emphasis on Taylor's science. Though there are no derivations, this is not a popularization, and one needs a fair amount of physics to get anything out of it, say a first undergraduate course in mechanics. (I have, however, taught some of this material to students taking their first course in physics, with what I like to think was some success.) For many of us, that first course was Goldstein, or some equally abstract and petrified pedagogic horror, and it will come as something of shock to see mechanics take life in Taylor's hands.
Science is not a social vacuum process, and Batchelor describes the medium of formal and informal institutions within which Taylor's work propagated. These were typical of the physical sciences in the first half of the twentieth century: mostly university research labs (the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge --- not too shabby), some government-sponsored research projects (a couple of uncomfortable months at sea in the arctic), national scientific societies (he was an FRS) and international disciplinary communities (he was quite active in creating the international mechanics research community). During the wars he was put to work doing exceedingly practical research for the military: ``World War II was, technically speaking, an exercise in applied classical physics ... on a vast scale, and the profound understanding of mechanics and physics that G. I. possessed fitted him perfectly for the role of consultant on the innumerable problems that arose.'' Some of those problems, having to do with blasts and shock-waves, arose at the base of the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico; like many scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, Taylor had an ``innocent and natural'' reaction to the ``wonderful physics of the bomb,'' and devised a typically ingenious and accurate way of gauging the energy released from the growth of the fireball. (As Batchelor says, ``he was not reflective, and moral or philosophical issues did not often engage his mind.'')
Though there is less in here about institutions and society than most contemporary historians could wish, there is much that is valuable for them, provided they can get along without ruminations on gender encoding in fluid mechanics or the like. The book's main audience, however, is physicists, applied mathematicians and engineers curious about the development of their art, and one of its great practitioners.