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Launch the Icebergs!

Tim Lewens: Who Was Max Perutz?, 15 November 2007

Max Perutz and the Secret of Life 
by Georgina Ferry.
Chatto, 352 pp., £25, July 2007, 978 0 7011 7695 2
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... is the secret of life? Ferry keeps to the conventional meaning of the phrase, encouraged by Francis Crick’s announcement in the Eagle pub in Cambridge in 1953, and since then widely adopted among popular science writers. To learn the secret of life is not to discover how organisms become adapted to their surroundings, how blood is circulated, or ...

Small Items with Big Implications

John Hedley Brooke, 1 December 1983

Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 413 pp., £11.95, September 1983, 0 393 01716 8
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The Great Chain of History: William Buckland and the English School of Geology, 1814-1849 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Oxford, 322 pp., £22.50, September 1983, 0 19 822907 0
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... between the selfish gene hypothesis of Richard Dawkins and the selfish DNA hypothesis of Francis Crick, he is led into an enlightening discussion of biological reductionism. The Darwinism of Dawkins is thoroughly reductionist, in the sense that bodies are merely temporary containers for their selfish genes: the genes themselves increase in ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair, 23 January 1997

Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... schizophrenic ex-CIA dolphin. The ravings of a new-wave physicist, someone who had worked with Francis Crick. And done too much mescaline. A classic William Burroughs paranoid believing herself to be the only person ‘in possession of all the facts’. Ms Keeldare’s text was paralysed with self-consciousness, mesmerised by its own audacity. Out of ...

Medawartime

June Goodfield, 6 November 1986

Memoir of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 209 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 19 217737 0
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... Sousa once wrote to me: I don’t know if Gerald Edelman ever gets depressed, or if Jim Watson or Francis Crick ever get depressed. But for the more ordinary of us, the strength that is needed to believe that what you believe in is worth pursuing is very great. And at the end of a Glasgow wet, windy week, it cries out. You have no idea how meaningful it ...

How Does It Add Up?

Neal Ascherson: The Burns Cult, 12 March 2009

The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography 
by Robert Crawford.
Cape, 466 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 224 07768 2
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... The late Bernard Crick, who had a fine and memorable funeral in Edinburgh the other day, left a legacy of sharp opinions behind him. Among the least popular was his opinion of the British tradition of biography, and his remarks remain a stinging nettle in the path of all ‘life-writers’. In the introduction to his life of George Orwell, Crick said that most biographies were just dressed-up historical novels ...

Red Science

Eric Hobsbawm: J.D. Bernal, 9 March 2006

J.D. Bernal: The Sage of Science 
by Andrew Brown.
Oxford, 562 pp., £25, November 2005, 0 19 851544 8
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... less perceptive than Fred Steward’s essay on ‘Political Formation’ in Brenda Swann and Francis Aprahamian’s collection J.D. Bernal: A Life in Science and Politics (1999), presumably because he is too anxious to balance his enormous admiration for the man and the scientist by insisting on his rejection of the Stalinist. I am not in a ...

1984 and ‘1984’

Randolph Quirk, 16 February 1984

... is not a modern revelation: indeed, it is probably universal. One of the chief impediments that Francis Bacon saw to the Advancement of Learning and hence of mankind itself was the too ready dislocation of words from meanings, the ‘Pygmalion’s frenzy’ in which people were ever liable to be moved by words themselves without thought to what ‘weight of ...

Where on Earth are you?

Frances Stonor Saunders, 3 March 2016

... should also be known and accessible to us.’ The politics of scrutiny will not suffer the crick that can’t be cracked. Total knowability is the objective, and, its high priests say, we have the technology to achieve it. This is not a conspiracy (and if it were, it would involve Facebook and Google, as much as, if not more than, the ...

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