Sunday, 28 October 2012

Books that changed my life

I thought I'd do a list of the five books that opened my eyes scientifically.  These aren't textbooks although I could have listed ten of those.  These are books that you can read quite comfortably.

1  The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out - Richard Feynman
A pleasure of a short book in the authenitc voice of a pioneer of science from the last century.  If you want to understand science as a process, this is the book to go to.  Superb in its brevity and depth.

2 Unweaving The Rainbow - Richard Dawkins
It might be more fashionable to mention others of Dawkins's works, but this one is the one that encapsulates his almost poetical thoughts on science itself, rather than evolution or creationism or the more technical works.  Dawkins himself reads as easily as any writer of fiction.

3  Ever Since Darwin - Stephen Jay Gould

I could have chosen any one of Gould's books but I chose this since it was the first time I read him.  He got more verbose and perhaps a little too long winded towards the end, but there was no stylist writing in science better than him at the time, roughly the mid-70s through to 2000.

4 The Cosmic Connection - Carl Sagan

This was the first grown up science book I ever bought, age 11.  Surprisingly, I found it in the local Woolworths - I certainly had not expected that result.  It was a bit much at the time, I wasn't experienced in science sufficiently to follow all the examples, but it astounded me that there was so much I had yet to learn.

5 The Life Sciences - PB & JS Medewar

I read this at an influential time in my life, sixteen, on the threshold of O levels and dating a girl whose father was the chief scientist in the UK.  Again a real eye opener, showing that there was so much in my chosen field that I had yet to encounter.  Another stylish writer too.

 I realise many people are not interested in science, which is a shame, but were they to pick up some of the foregoing books, I am sure they would come to realise that what they have missed is immense and awe inspiringly wonderful.

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