It’s aliiiiiive….!

Bristol’s ever enterprising Festival of Ideas team have put together a couple of days of talks, theatre and films to mark the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (she visited Bristol, don’t you know). I’m chairing this¬†discussion on ethics, biotech and medicine, largely because I wrote a book about Frankenstein, not quite so long ago. […]

James Watson, writer

A bit of a gap since the last post here, but still after Francis Crick my thoughts turn to James Watson, the surviving member of the dynamic duo. So here’s a review of a book about him, not a biography as such, but a reflection on Watson the writer, his interesting (to me, especially) parallel […]

Francis Crick: the full biography

I posted an interview with Francis Crick a little while back. Crick was so productive for so long, he made a daunting subject. Here’s my take on the more or less official biography, which – impressively – was published five years after he died. The individual scientific biography seems an increasingly outmoded exercise. Science today […]

Making laboratory animals, and animal laboratories

Recent books have highlighted the advent of synbio (Adam Rutherford), and the future of animals engineered for our amusement (Emily Anthes – which I’ve yet to read). But lets not forget that there is a long history of science using animals for its own purposes, and fashioning them to suit in lower tech ways. Rom […]

Making modern science – and discarding the old story

I heard a good talk about science this week – good, that is, except when the presenter touched on history. That part was pretty much a caricature of scientists’ typical take on their predecessors. There was stuff in the past we now think is right (good) and stuff we know is wrong (bad). The notion […]

“We really thought it was the most important problem” – DNA 30 years on

I’ve seen quite a few DNA anniversaries now – 25, 30, 40, 50 and (this month!) 60. Seems a good time to revisit the first one I saw at first hand, as it were. I’m struggling a bit here – trying to be a good reporter while frankly star struck. (James Watson! Sidney Brenner!) And […]