Tuesday, September 12, 2006

scientists' self-portraits

Interesting piece in The New Atlantis about scientists' memoirs by Christine Rosen. Peter Medawar said Watson's Double Helix (of which more anon) invented the genre of scientific memoir. Rosen goes back a lot further - Priestley, Darwin and Max Planck. She also quotes Medawar, intriguingly, in support of her claim about the importance of memoir. OK, the doing of science is often dull, but "in another sense memoir is a good fit for scientists, since their work is, in some ways, about constructing narratives. As ... Medawar observed, the work of scientists is 'building explanatory structures, telling stories which are scrupulously tested to see if they are stories about real life.'"

I like that. It would be interesting to take it beyond Watson, though, where she stops. Try Kary Mullis, Robert Sapolsky, John Sulston, Francis Crick, just among the biologists...


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