Category Archives: biography

The BBC’s Hitchens remembrance

A few days ago I directed you to an hourlong BBC show about the life and work of Christopher Hitchens, who, had he lived, would have been 70 on April 13. If you haven’t yet heard it, I recommend it highly. You can listen to the program by clicking on the third screenshot below (or […]

Flowering plants remain viable after passing through the guts of waterfowl

We’ve long known that plant seeds can remain viable not only after floating a long time in fresh or salt water, but also when passing through the guts of birds, including waterfowl. In fact, I believe that at least half of the plants that arrive on oceanic islands, later to form new species, come from […]

Susan Jacoby’s biography of Ingersoll

On my train rides up to and back from Madison, I polished off Susan Jacoby’s 2013 short (211 small pages) book on Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899). Ingersoll was an author, freethinker, and perhaps America’s most spellbinding orator of the 19th century, despite the fact that he was absolutely godless and spent much of his writing […]

BBC 4 broadcast on Rosalind Franklin

Reader Kevin called my attention to this BBC4 show on Rosalind Franklin. It won’t be available long, I think, so listen to the 43-minute program soon (click on the screenshot to go there). Besides moderator Melvyn Bragg, the participants include Patricia Fara  (physics, University of Cambridge), Jim Naismith (structural biology, University of Oxford) and Judith Howard […]

My WaPo review of A. N. Wilson’s Darwin biography

The new Washington Post “Outlook” section has on the cover my review of A. N. Wilson’s new biography, Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker.  I panned the book, for it was dreadful on both the historical (biographical) and scientific fronts. You can read my take by clicking on the screenshots below: I’ll give just the last two paragraphs; […]

A. N. Wilson beats up Darwin again, this time in The Times

I don’t know how A. N. Wilson managed to get several deeply misguided pieces published about his new Darwin biography, Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker (out on September 7 in the UK, December in the U.S.), but the piece in the Evening Standard, “It’s time Charles Darwin was exposed for the fraud he was” (oy!), has now been […]

Happy birthday, Max Delbrück!

by Matthew Cobb As Jerry pointed out earlier, the scientist Max Delbrück was born 110 years ago today. Because many readers will never have heard of him, Jerry asked me to sketch his life. Here you are: Max Delbrück (1906-1981) was a key figure in the history of post-war genetics, pioneering the molecular investigation of […]

Bob Trivers’ (and my) take on famous evolutionary biologists

Several readers sent me a link to a piece by Bob Trivers called “Vignettes of famous evolutionary biologists, large and small” (Trivers is of course also a famous evolutionary biologist.) His essay is at the Unz Review, whatever that is, so I would have missed it. Anybody who knows Bob, as I do, also knows that he […]

A great profile of Al Pacino

I’m not big on articles about Hollywood stars, but this is an exception. John Lahr, the head drama critic for The New Yorker (and son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion), has written a terrific profile of actor Al Pacino, and I’m pleased to say that it’s online for free. Pacino hasn’t done much lately, for, as […]

Teller reviews Martin Gardner’s autobiography

As a stripling I was an avid reader of Martin Gardner‘s “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American, though I was often too young (or too dumb) to follow them. Gardner died in 2010 at age 95, but near the end he wrote his autobiography, Undiluted Hocus-Pocus, which is reviewed by the magician Teller in today’s […]