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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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... My first encounter with PeterMedawar revealed something about us both. When he was the new Mason Professor of Zoology in the University of Birmingham I was a student at University College, Nottingham, and one of my tasks as president of ...
27 September 1990
A Very Decided Preference: Life with Peter​ Medawar 
by Jean Medawar.
Oxford, 256 pp., £15, August 1990, 0 19 217779 6
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The Threat and the Glory: Reflections on Science and Scientists 
by Peter Medawar, edited by David Pyke.
Oxford, 291 pp., £15, August 1990, 0 19 217778 8
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... Jean Taylor met PeterMedawar when they were students. When she married him she therefore knew that he was an extremely able biologist, but she cannot have foreseen what an energetic polymath she was attaching herself to. Medawar ...
2 December 1982
Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 
by Robert Nisbet.
Harvard, 318 pp., £12.25, November 1982, 0 674 70065 1
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... I have reason to believe that the Harvard University Press has it in mind to revive the literary genre of which the exemplar is Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique – a bright idea, for Voltaire’s Dictionary is still read with delight by those who have come to think the better-known Candide intolerably tiresome. Voltaire’s is not, of course, a dictionary in the sense of being a work of reference ...
1 September 1983
Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... Sir PeterMedawar is the most distinguished biologist in Britain today. His work on immunology during the 1950s is the inspiration of all modern transplantation surgery, and was judged worthy of a Nobel Prize. In ...

Florey Story

Peter Medawar

20 December 1979
Howard Florey: The Making of a Great Scientist 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Oxford, 396 pp., £7.95
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... them down to size. I wrote a long-winded paper on my work as a graduate student in his lab and showed it to Florey. When he handed it back to me, he said: ‘I don’t see what you’re getting at, Medawar. The paper doesn’t make sense to me.’ Later on, having learned better, I wrote a clear and simple paper for a journal Florey was particularly fond of and regularly read, and I was overjoyed when ...

The Meaning of Silence

Peter Medawar

2 February 1984
Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony 
by Lewis Thomas.
Viking, 168 pp., $12.95, November 1983, 0 670 70390 7
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... Lewis Thomas’s latest book is a collection of 24 short essays of which the first has to do with the gravest problem confronting mankind – the Bomb. In this essay his fans see a different Lewis Thomas – angry where he was once urbane, grim rather than gay, for no aspect of the bomb is at all funny and upon this subject Thomas is unrelievedly grave. His night thoughts are akin to those that most ...

The Pissing Evile

Peter Medawar

1 December 1983
The Discovery of Insulin 
by Michael Bliss.
Paul Harris, 304 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 86228 056 7
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... The discovery of insulin may be rated the first great triumph of medical science. The first important contribution of the great pharmaceutical companies to human welfare was surely the preparation, purification, standardisation and marketing of insulin in a form suitable for self-administration by the afflicted patients. The entire episode brought to an end, with an appropriately reverberant thunderclap ...

Scientific Fraud

Peter Medawar

17 November 1983
Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science 
by William Broad and Nicholas Wade.
Century, 256 pp., £8.95, July 1983, 0 7126 0243 7
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... Some policemen are venal; some judges take bribes and deliver verdicts accordingly; there are secret diabolists among men in holy orders and among vice-chancellors are many who believe that most students enjoying higher education would be better-off as gardeners or in the mines; moreover, some scientists fiddle their results or distort the truth for their own benefit. None of these, though, is representative ...

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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... This is a guide book to the scientific scene, full of urbane wisdom, happy phrases and entertaining examples. ‘How can I tell if I am cut out to be a scientist?’ Medawar asks. He dismisses curiosity (it killed the cat) and suggests that scientists need something for which ‘exploratory impulsion’ is not too grand a name. But what about delight and wonder at the ...
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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... Medawar presents an erudite and entertaining 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 ...

Tinkering

John Maynard Smith

17 September 1981
The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... not later have become a scientist. More than that, the ideas I got from them were profound, not superficial. The list of writers I have just given, together with a later generation – for example, Medawar, Dawkins and Gould himself – suggests that a successful writer of popular science must have two qualities. First, all except H.G. Wells were practising scientists, and the exception in a sense ...

Todd Almighty

Peter Medawar

16 February 1984
A Time to Remember: The Autobiography of a Chemist 
by Alexander Todd.
Cambridge, 257 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 521 25593 7
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... Lord Todd’s describing himself as ‘a chemist’ is not mock modesty but a true representation of how he sees himself and chooses to be seen by others – no ordinary chemist, mind you, but the supremo of British chemistry for very many years and a figure of world rank as well. He is a Nobel Laureate and a peer and has been President of the Royal Society and the Head of a Cambridge College; he has ...
20 May 1982
Koestler 
by Iain Hamilton.
Secker, 397 pp., £12, April 1982, 0 436 19191 1
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... which Koestler had introduced in his Insight and Outlook, published in 1949, and employed primarily as a basis for a theory of humour. The Act of Creation was very roughly handled by Sir PeterMedawar in a long article in the New Statesman. Having reread Medawar’s review and his rejoinder to Koestler’s letter of protest, I cannot agree with Mr Hamilton’s insinuation that Medawar’s ...

Neurotic Health

Michael Shepherd

17 December 1981
Becoming Psychiatrists 
by Donald Light.
Norton, 429 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 393 01168 2
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... Roebuck: a recognis – ably shabby figure, fallible but well-meaning, doing his troubled best to help, counsel and advise his patients. Now the American consumer appears to have rumbled what Sir PeterMedawar has termed the most stupendous confidence-trick of the 20th century. To be sure, the numbers of mentally sick and worried well have not diminished. They are still in search of help, but they ...
17 October 1985
Criticism in the University 
edited by Gerald Graff and Reginald Gibbons.
Northwestern, 234 pp., £29.95, September 1985, 0 8101 0670 1
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... a resentment amounting almost to hatred of their calling. Much of this no doubt lies deep in the sociology of academic life in general, but one can guess at more particular reasons. Not long ago Sir PeterMedawar remarked that when the momentous DNA discoveries were being made there were plenty of people in the English faculties of universities quite as clever as Crick and Watson – but Crick and ...

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