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Science and the Stars

M.F. Perutz, 6 June 1985

The Limits of Science 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 108 pp., £7.50, February 1985, 0 19 217744 3
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... account of the limits of science, or mostly the lack of them, as perceived by great thinkers from Francis Bacon to Karl Popper and himself. His arguments are couched in largely epistemological terms which do not arouse my passions, but they stimulated me to think about those limits that affect laymen’s attitudes to science, about the practical limits ...


M.F. Perutz: Memories of J.D.Bernal, 6 July 2000

... unselfconsciously, vividly, without showing off, on any subject under the sun. His enthusiasm for science was unbounded. He became my PhD supervisor. I could not have wished for a more inspiring one. Yet he was erratic, his desk was chaotic, he was always travelling hither and thither, which left him no time to finish things, and in the middle of one of ...

Spying made easy

M.F. Perutz, 25 June 1987

Klaus Fuchs: The man who stole the atom bomb 
by Norman Moss.
Grafton, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 246 13158 6
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... a town near Los Alamos: Classified data dealing with the whole problem of making an atom bomb from fissionable material as I then knew the problem. Information as to the principle of the method of detonating an atom bomb. The possibility of making a plutonium bomb. The high spontaneous fission rate of plutonium. (It is this which causes fission to ...

True Science

M.F. Perutz, 19 March 1981

Advice to a Young Scientist 
by P.B. Medawar.
Harper and Row, 109 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 06 337006 9
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... the riddle of the life cycle of that fly and set Keilin on a trail of discoveries which made him famous. This leads me to my final advice to young scientists. Take no notice of what your elders tell you. Since I have now become an elder myself I shall leave it to a young logician to make what he can of this ...

German Scientist

M.F. Perutz, 8 January 1987

The Dilemmas of an Upright Man: Max Planck as Spokesman for German Science 
by J.L. Heilbron.
California, 250 pp., £14.50, July 1986, 0 520 05710 4
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... it with Prussia. His elder brother’s death in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 ‘made him feel at one with the heroes who sealed their true love for the fatherland with their own blood’. They were noble sentiments in those days. At school in Munich – his father was a professor of law at the University – he nearly always earned the annual prize ...

Lab Lib

M.F. Perutz, 19 April 1984

Rutherford: Simple Genius 
by David Wilson.
Hodder, 639 pp., £14.95, February 1984, 0 340 23805 4
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... He found college men ‘very capable, especially in conversation. It’s a pity so many of them fossilise.’ He soon realised that only by scientific success could he make himself socially acceptable and financially viable. ‘If one gets a man like J.J.’ – J.J. Thomson, then Cavendish Professor of Physics – ‘to back one up,’ he wrote to his ...

Dangerous Misprints

M.F. Perutz, 26 September 1991

by Jerry Bishop and Michael Waldholz.
Touchstone, 352 pp., £8.99, September 1991, 0 671 74032 6
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... was unknown, hoped that it would soon become possible to diagnose the gene’s presence in symptom-free carriers or in unborn babies. Their hopes have been realised, but the gene itself and the deleterious protein specified by it remain to be identified, and consequently there is as yet no cure in sight. This situation has given rise to heart-rending ...


Daniel Kevles, 17 August 1989

Thinking about science: Max Delbrück and the Origins of Molecular Biology 
by Ernst Peter Fischer and Carol Lipson.
Norton, 334 pp., £13.95, January 1989, 9780393025088
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Is science necessary? Essays on Science and Scientists 
by M.F. Perutz.
Barrie and Jenkins, 285 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 7126 2123 7
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... he constantly tested and modified his ideas against an enormous array of observational data. Max Perutz, who was for many years the director of the Medical Research Council Unit for Molecular Biology at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, had a front-row seat during many innings of molecular genetics. He reports in Is science necessary? – a collection ...

War on Heisenberg

M.F. Perutz, 18 November 1993

Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb 
by Thomas Powers.
Cape, 610 pp., £20, April 1993, 0 224 03641 6
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Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts 
introduced by Charles Frank.
Institute of Physics, 515 pp., £14.95, May 1993, 0 7503 0274 7
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... energy. Two German physicists at Göttingen told the Ministry of Education in Berlin that uranium fission might be employed in an energy-producing reactor, while Paul Harteck at Hamburg wrote to the War Office that ‘it will probably make it possible to produce an explosive many orders of magnitude more powerful than the conventional ones ... That country ...

Patriotic Work

M.F. Perutz, 27 September 1990

by Andrei Sakharov, translated by Richard Lourie.
Hutchinson, 776 pp., £19.99, July 1990, 0 09 174636 1
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... who hugged him in front of the entire Politburo and Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, to thank him for his patriotic work, ‘which was helping to prevent a new war’. This work was the design of a new ‘improved’ hydrogen bomb of unprecedented power. There is no sign that the second Sakharov, once he had realised the true nature of Khrushchev’s and ...

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