• All the Raj

    Some thoughts upon reading David Gilmour’s The British in India. 1) The title of the book lacks parentheses, The British (in India). Or at the very least, a comma – The British, in India. After all, the focus is on the British character and what the colonial experience reveals about it (apparently, it wasn’t all bad). And if you find yourself rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, here we go, white people talking about themselves again…, you might be right. But at least Gilmour is aware of that reaction. In that sense, this is a very modern book

  • Climbing Mount Irascible

    If the scientific autobiography belongs to “a most awkward literary genre,” the scientific book review must belong to a decidedly tedious one. And Erwin Chargaff’s review of Watson’s The Double Helix is the exception that proves the rule. In 1968, Gunther Stent (a contemporary of Jim Watson and a fellow member of the Phage Group) wrote a review called What they are saying about Honest Jim in the Quarterly Review of Biology (Vol. 43-2, 1968) (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/405728). This piece was what one might call a meta-review – a “review of the reviewers” – where Stent turns over (at times

  • What I don’t understand about the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

    “DNA makes RNA makes protein makes money” While it is true that, in general, scientists have not much time for history – or to put it another way: Nor do I suggest that the history of science may not be profoundly interesting as history. What I am saying is that it does not often interest the scientist as science. PB Medowar (New York Review of Books, March 28, 1968, pp 3-5) But if there is a “historical” book (and I use the term “historical” cavalierly) that every scientist has read –