Synopses & Reviews
describes the transformative role played by andldquo;outsidersandrdquo; in the growth of the modern life sciences. Biology, which occupies a special place between the exact and human sciences, has historically attracted many thinkers whose primary training was in other fields: mathematics, physics, chemistry, linguistics, philosophy, history, anthropology, engineering, and even literature. These outsiders brought with them ideas and tools that were foreign to biology, but which, when applied to biological problems, helped to bring about dramatic, and often surprising, breakthroughs.and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;This volume brings together eighteen thought-provoking biographical essays of some of the most remarkable outsiders of the modern era, each written by an authority in the respective field. From Noam Chomsky using linguistics to answer questions about brain architecture, to Erwin Schrandouml;dinger contemplating DNA as a physicist would, to Drew Endy tinkering with Biobricks to create new forms of synthetic life, the outsiders featured here make clear just how much there is to gain from disrespecting conventional boundaries. Innovation, it turns out, often relies on importing new ideas from other fields. Without its outsiders, modern biology would hardly be recognizable.
" puts Price's work into a wide scientific and social context, showing real insight into its importance and genuine sympathy for the tale of his life." Steve Jones
Ever since Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists have wondered whether it can explain the existence of altruism. Price wanted to describe mathematically how a genetic disposition to altruism could evolve. As Mr. Harman so vividly describes, Price ultimately became one of the vagabonds he set out to save. The Big Issue
An intriguing history for serious students of the history of science.A masterfully told story... This book is in the same class as Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind.Brilliant... A great story. --Brian Appleyard
[A] rich and vigorous survey of the controversy over altruism and its evolutionary role, stretching from the 19th century to now.Would make a great film (probably starring Matt Damon).[E]nthralling.... Extremely well researched and written with great love of the subject, The Price of Altruism reveals all sorts of personal details of momentous events in the history of science.... This is a book for anyone interested in the question, first posed by Darwin himself, of how we ended up with so much kindness in a natural world customarily depicted as 'red in tooth and claw.' Price struggled with it on an intensely personal level. His story is highly relevant at a time when greed as the basis of society has lost much of its appeal. --Frans de Waal
Oren Harman's compelling new book explores one of the key questions of our era—what are the origins of altruism? A little known mathematician lies at the heart of the story. George Price recognized that acts of kindness and self-sacrifice stood blatantly opposed to most of the principles of modern Darwinism. Harman's wide-ranging intellectual quest brings this shy, anguished, and fascinating man alive with style and passion, and reminds us of the powerful emotions that can fuel great scientific achievement. --Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin
This book is a stunning tour de force. The puzzle of altruism is revealed as it would be in a thriller, with twists and turns and surprises almost until the end. --Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard University
Uncommonly brilliant and deeply stimulating... almost cinematically satisfying. Harman has a rare gift for bringing ideas and thinkers to life. --Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic
I stayed up a good part of the night reading... fascinating! --Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
A terrific book, at once scholarly and impossible to put down. --Peter Godfrey-Smith, professor of philosophy at Harvard University
A brilliant biography of a brilliant man. A powerful page-turner that vividly renders the obsessive absorption with the poles of cooperation and competition in nature. --Daniel Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University
In this remarkable book, Oren Harman tracks George Price, an awkward, disturbed, and profoundly, almost saintly scientist.... It is an astonishing story at every level, from the destitute wanderings and genial interventions of Price to a revealing account of how modern evolutionary biology took its contemporary form. --Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and Physics, Harvard University
Remarkable... fascinating. --Steve Jones
Fascinating.... Important... full of complex and deeply interesting ideas. The Economist
Remarkable... fascinating. New Scientist
and#8220;Biology is a constantly shifting chimeraand#8212;so we learn from this remarkable set of essays curated by Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich.and#160;But unlike the Greek mythic creature (lion, goat, snake), biology, these authors show, has been even more polymorphic, and in ever new ways: biology is put together from linguistic, philosophical, and literary practices, and involves skills borrowed from physics, computation, and chemistry, among other fields. Anyone interested in biology should read this bookand#8212;and so should all of us who want to understand outside thinking as a crucial driver of innovation.and#8221;
"Illustrate[s] a variety of ways of coping with the clash of perspectives that is often encountered in attempts to bridge community and disciplinary barriers. Learning to turn this friction into constructive means of devising and testing assumptions--learning to overcome impasses--should be of considerable value to workaday scientists."
"Offers a very instructive account of the work and ideas of several important figures of the history of the life sciences from the second half of the 19th century to the present. . . . It shows that individual people, at least on some occasions, are able to perform work and develop ideas that are of great significance. Such a demonstration is invaluable to transmit and to help reinforce the taste for research."
"An informative look at the history of biology from the perspective of outside influences, appropriate for readers with various academic backgrounds. Recommended."
Survival of the fittest or survival of the nicest? Since the dawn of time man has contemplated the mystery of altruism, but it was Darwin who posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger, evolution has yielded a goodness that in theory should never be. Set against the sweeping tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922-1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin's enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter's flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence.
Set against the sweeping tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922 1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin s enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter s flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence. "
"Enthralling."--Frans de Waal, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
is the chair of the Graduate Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, the author of The Man Who Invented the Chromosome
and The Price of Altruism
, and coeditor of Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology
. He lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.Michael R. Dietrich
is professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College and coeditor of The Educated Eye
and Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology
. He lives in Amherst, MA.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Outsiders as Innovators in the Life Sciences
Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich
I Outsiders Before the Inside
1 The Many Sides of Gregor Mendel
2 Louis Pasteur: The Chemist in the Clinic
3 Fand#233;lix dand#8217;Herelle: Uncompromising Autodidact
William C. Summers
4 The Paradox of Samuel Butler: Insider or Outsider?
II Outsiders from the Physical Sciences
5 Erwin Schrand#246;dingerand#8217;s Excursus on Genetics
6 Linus Pauling: Leading Exporter of Chemical Insights into Biology
Gregory J. Morgan
7 From Bomb to Bank: Walter Goad and the Introduction of Computers into Biology
III Outsiders from Mathematics
8 R. A. Fisher and the Foundations of Statistical Biology
Michael R. Dietrich and Robert A. Skipper, Jr.
9 Nicolas Rashevskyand#8217;s Pencil- and- Paper Biology
Maya M. Shmailov
10 Searching for Patterns, Hunting for Causes: Robert MacArthur, the Mathematical Naturalist
IV Outsiders from the Human Sciences
11 Noam Chomsky and the Biology of Language
W. Tecumseh Fitch
12 Dunking the Tarzanists: Elaine Morgan and the Aquatic Ape Theory
Erika Lorraine Milam
13 David Hulland#8217;s Philosophical Contribution to Biology
T. J. Horder
14 Ilya Metchnikoff: From Evolutionist to Immunologist, and Back Again
Alfred I. Tauber
15 Franand#231;ois Jacob: Tinkering with Organisms and Models
VI Outsiders from Informatics
16 Theoreticians as Professional Outsiders: The Modeling Strategies of John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener
17 On the Importance of the Parvenu: The Amazing Case of George Price in Evolutionary Biology
18 Outsiders and In- Laws: Drew Endy and the Case of Synthetic Biology
Epilogue: The Problem with Boxes
Richard C. Lewontin
List of Contributors