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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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... new plants had been found. The prestige of the gardens continued to grow, however, enhanced equally by the philosophers they attracted and the flowers and fruit they supplied to European princes. RayDesmond 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 ...


M.F. Perutz: Memories of J.D.Bernal

6 July 2000
... Cambridge to seek out the Great Sage, and asked him: ‘How can I solve the riddle of life?’ ‘The 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 ...

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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... the character of a physical law & is therefore utterly useless. – it foretells nothing because we know 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 ...

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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... at least, were beautifully set up). But twice? Of course, it is all too easy to blame Ron Greenwood. 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 ...

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 ...

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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... have approached its present eminence. The ministrations of Ted Hughes, a tough guy too, had much to do 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 ...
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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... in 1962. Whichever other of Watson’s judgments have been controversial – notably his dismissal of 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 ...

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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... appreciation changed over the years, perhaps in response to the implications of evolution, or just as a result of growing older. He put down the gun (the Church forced Fox to do the same) and told Ray Lankester that vivisection was criminal if carried out ‘for mere damnable and detestable curiosity’. He indicted himself as he continued working on fancy pigeons: ‘I have done the black deed ...

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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... the intelligentsia’ and ‘the lumpenproletariat’ take their turns in the spotlight, while ‘the 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 ...

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