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 […]