Melvin Berger Evelyn Shaw - Essay

Evelyn Shaw

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In Triumphs of Modern Science, by Melvin Berger …, there is emphasis on the individual's participation in scientific discoveries. (Actually, I would like to know what prompted some of the inclusions as part of modern science, unless by "modern" the author means anything between 1900 and 1960.)

Each chapter is a biography of the scientist identified with a particular discovery, and includes the histories of penicillin, viruses, antibiotics, X-rays, DNA, radioactivity, and relativity. I like the human element in this type of reporting, because I think that young readers can relate to it and see the possibilities that exist for their own achievements in science studies. However, I wish the author had emphasized somewhere that many discoveries are not made suddenly, but usually have, as a foundation, years of work carried out by many people and leading to one individual's spectacular "breakthrough." (p. 17)

Evelyn Shaw, in Natural History (copyright © the American Museum of Natural History, 1965; reprinted with permission from Natural History), November, 1965.

A science book with the humanities reader in mind, [Famous Men of Modern Biology] investigates the work of fourteen biologists from Pasteur to the Double Helix duo…. [Each chapter develops] some personality through anecdotes, such as the preoccupied Salk assuring his neglected wife, "My dear, I'm giving you my undevoted attention." Mr. Berger does for biology what Bernard Jaffe did for chemistry...

(The entire section is 655 words.)