DOMINANT CHARACTER

Book number: 92006 Product format: Hardback Author: SAMANTHA SUBRAMANIAN

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Bibliophile price £3.00
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Sub-titled 'The Radical Science and Restless Politics of J. B. S. Haldane', J. B. S. grew up in Edinburgh into a family of important landowners who led strict, spare lives, obedient to their Calvinist virtue, but aristocrats all the same. The family lived for much of the year near Gleneagles where Robert had bought a farmhouse and to achieve a manorial look dressed it up with a turret. J. B. S.'s life was rich and strange, from his boyhood apprenticeship to his scientist father who first instilled in him a devotion to the scientific method, to his time in the trenches during WW1 where he wrote his first scientific paper, to his numerous experiments on himself including inhaling dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and drinking hydrochloric acid, to his clandestine research for the British Admiralty during WW2. Haldane is best remembered as a geneticist who revolutionised our understanding of evolution, but his peers hailed him as a polymath. One student called him 'the last man who might know all there was to be known.' Haldane foresaw invitro fertilisation, peak oil, and the hydrogen fuel cell, and his contributions ranged over physiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, mathematics and biostatistics. He was also a staunch Communist, which led him to Spain during its Civil War and sparked suspicions that he was spying for the Soviets. He wrote copiously on science and politics in newspapers and magazines, and gave speeches in town halls and on the radio, all of which made him, in his day, as famous in Britain as Einstein. It is the duty of scientists to think politically Haldane believed and sought not simply to tell his readers what to think, but to show them how to think. Although he hated to be bothered by correspondence, he had letters piled up around his various offices over the years - in Cambridge in the 1920s, in University College London until the 1950s, in Calcutta and Bhubaneswar thereafter, but he always tried to reply and never shrank from exalting the scientific method, even in casual correspondence - 'Science advances by successive improvements in former theories.' 383pp, illus., 2020 US first edition.

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ISBN 9780393634242

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