A Passion for Science

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

What kinds of people go into science? What do they enjoy about their work? How do they come up with new ideas? What is it really like to work in a laboratory?

In layman’s terms, A PASSION FOR SCIENCE attempts to answer these and other, more philosophical, questions. The thirteen scientists interviewed are physicists Abdus Salam and Michael Berry; cosmologist Martin Rees; mathematician Christopher Zeeman; molecular biologists Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, and Gunther Stent; evolution theorist John Maynard Smith; evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; virologist Anthony Epstein; geneticist Walter Bodmer; neuropsychologist Richard Gregory; and, the lone woman in the group, chemist Dorothy Hodgkin. Although most of the people interviewed are British, their answers are frequently applicable to the experiences of most scientists. More than half of the featured scientists are men born in the 1920’s, which perhaps influenced the character of some responses.

The text varies from lively and interesting to pedantic or egotistical, as might be expected from a collection of this nature. Readers share the personal stories surrounding such famous discoveries as Watson and Crick’s elucidation of DNA’s structure, as well as more mundane and sometimes humorous descriptions of laboratory life.

The book is not so technical as to require a scientific background, but at least a general appreciation of science is probably essential to enjoy it fully.