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Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... by the philosophers they attracted and the flowers and fruit they supplied to European princes. Ray Desmond describes how royal taste in the Age of Enlightenment led to the planting of a botanic garden at Kew. New to the British throne, the Hanoverians sought to create a version of the much imitated garden at Versailles. Queen Caroline chose the Tudor ...

Diary

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

... riddle of life is in the structure of proteins,’ he replied, ‘and it can be solved only by X-ray crystallography.’ The Great Sage was John Desmond Bernal, a flamboyant Irishman with a mane of fair hair, crumpled flannel trousers and a tweed jacket. We called him Sage, because he knew everything, from physics to the ...

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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... Who was Max Perutz? There are plenty of good answers. He was an X-ray crystallographer, someone who uses X-rays as a tool to discover the three-dimensional structure of molecules. He was an accomplished skier and climber, with a sideline research interest in glaciology. He was a scientific manager, who founded and presided over Cambridge’s spectacularly successful Laboratory of Molecular Biology ...

Tough Guy

Ian Hamilton: Keith Douglas, 8 February 2001

Keith Douglas: The Letters 
edited by Desmond Graham.
Carcanet, 369 pp., £14.95, September 2000, 1 85754 477 3
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... with Douglas’s ascent (Hughes found in him ‘the burning away of all human pretensions in the ray cast by death’), and so did the labours of his assiduous biographer, Desmond Graham, who now brings us this thorough but often rather dull selection of Douglas’s letters. In 1974, the anniversary of Douglas’s death ...

Middle Positions

John Hedley Brooke, 21 July 1983

Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875 
by Adrian Desmond.
Blond and Briggs, 287 pp., £15.95, October 1982, 0 85634 121 5
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Evolution without Evidence: Charles Darwin and ‘The Origin Species’ 
by Barry Gale.
Harvester, 238 pp., £18.95, January 1983, 0 7108 0442 3
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The Secular Ark: Studies in the History of Biogeography 
by Janet Browne.
Yale, 273 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 300 02460 6
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The Descent of Darwin: A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinsm 
by Brain Leith.
Collins, 174 pp., £7.95, December 1982, 0 00 219548 8
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... nothing of the will of the deity ... ’ What has now been questioned, and very cleverly so by Desmond in his Archetypes and Ancestors, is whether the conventional image of Owen slain by Huxley gives an accurate picture of the idealists’ contribution to the science of palaeontology. Historians of science have been tempted to say that idealist ...

Football Mad

Martin Amis, 3 December 1981

The Soccer Tribe 
by Desmond Morris.
Cape, 320 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 9780224019354
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... Yet I think we should blame Ron Greenwood, whether it is all too easy or not. The selection of Ray Clemence in Norway cost us the first goal, and the first goal cost us the second (thanks also to a skilful ‘tap-on’ from Terry McDermott to the lone Norwegian in the England penalty area). Big Ray was plainly in a ...

Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... Rosalind Franklin, from whom, courtesy of Wilkins, he and Crick were provided with the crucial X-ray photographs of DNA crystals – his assessment of Crick has scarcely been disputed. The subsequent history of the DNA quartet is instructive in this regard. Franklin, miserable in the unfriendly and sexist environment of King’s College, London, switched ...

Darwin among the Gentry

Adrian Desmond, 23 May 1985

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. I: 1821-1836 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 702 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 521 25587 2
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The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea 
by Ronald Clark.
Weidenfeld, 449 pp., £14.95, April 1985, 0 297 78377 7
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... with a materialistic d’Holbachian science, one appreciates Darwin’s fears of social betrayal. For two decades he kept his secret from kindly Cambridge patrons like Henslow and Sedgwick. The origin and fate of Darwin’s theory provides the theme of Clark’s Survival of Charles Darwin. More than a biography, this is a synoptic sweep of evolutionary ...

High on His Own Supply

Christopher Tayler: Amis Recycled, 11 September 2003

Yellow Dog 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 340 pp., £16.99, September 2003, 0 224 05061 3
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... urkas’ – the criminal classes – drive the plot. First up comes Xan Meo (intelligentsia), a Ray Winstone-like middle-aged actor who plays cockney wideboys in British gangster flicks. Xan – who shares his surname with Duane Meo, John Self’s ‘whizzkid editor’ in Money – is sardonically described as a ‘Renaissance Man’: he has published a ...

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