Adrian Woolfson

Adrian Woolfson is the author of the The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Genetics and Life without Genes: The History and Future of Genomes. He teaches medicine at Clare College, Cambridge.

In search of the secrets of biological form

Adrian Woolfson, 6 January 2005

On 24 August 1848 an advertisement in the Brooklyn Eagle triumphantly announced a performance by ‘the most extraordinary and interesting man in miniature in the known world’. Charles Sherwood Stratton was a perfectly formed 25-inch-tall midget, who weighed only 15 pounds. It had been the idea of the Victorian freak show impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum to present him in the guise...

A theology of evolution

Adrian Woolfson, 5 February 2004

In a letter in the Times on 8 September 1809, W.M. Munro, a schoolmaster, described seeing a mermaid off the coast of Caithness. Walking along the shore of Sandside Bay, his attention was ‘arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending into the sea, and apparently in the action of combing its hair, which flowed around its...

The evolution of evolvability

Adrian Woolfson, 6 February 2003

One of the most intriguing of all magic tricks, the Disappearing Handkerchiefs, was presented to King Louis-Philippe at the Château St-Cloud in 1846 by the renowned French magician Robert-Houdin. An account can be found in his Memoirs:

I borrowed from my noble spectators several handkerchiefs which I made into a parcel and laid on the table. Then at my request different persons wrote on...

The Future of Emergence

Adrian Woolfson, 21 March 2002

In London Labour and the London Poor (1861), Henry Mayhew recorded seeing a watercress girl who, eight years old and ‘dressed only in a thin cotton gown and a threadbare shawl wrapped round her shoulders’, walked the streets crying ‘four bunches a penny’; and mudlarks, principally young boys, girls, old men and many old women, who spent the day with ‘their...

From Peckham Library to the Taj Mahal, the spines of a porcupine to the money bands of City traders, the flailings of a woodlouse emerging from a burning log or the whirlpool generated spontaneously in a bathtub, the Earth is graced with a multiplicity of structures. A great many of them are transient: snowflakes melting on a pair of ski boots, or the decaying remains of a Mayan temple....

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