Category Archives: history of science

Happy 100th birthday, Francis Crick (1916-2004)

by Matthew Cobb Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA with Jim Watson, was born 100 years ago today, on 8 June 1916. He was one of the most remarkable scientists of the 20th century, and, in my opinion, had one of the greatest scientific minds ever. As Jerry put it here […]

Matthew Cobb chooses the five best books on the history of science

Our own Matthew Cobb has just appeared on the Five Books site, where Jo Marchant interviews him about his five choices for “best books in the history of science”. (I think he really means the five best books that are accessible to the layperson.) It’s a good interview, and Matthew sounds very smart, which he […]

Unique artwork: Darwin on the Beagle, painted during the voyage

The Torygraph has published a jocular painting and the story behind it: it’s apparently the only depiction of the young Charles Darwin on his five-year H. M. S. Beagle voyage beginning in 1831. It was created by the official Beagle artist. Hannah Furness, the art correspondent, gives the tale. But first, the painting and its title: The […]

Darwin confirms his nonbelief in a letter up for auction

There are two scientific figures who are repeatedly accused by theists of being covert believers. One is Albert Einstein, who was clearly someone who didn’t believe in a personal God, said so repeatedly, and was at best a pantheist who saw the laws of nature and the universe as a kind of Ultimate Truth—but not a […]

A gynandromorph moth comes to the light – and tells a story about science

by Matthew Cobb This tw**t popped up in my feed the other night, from “wildlife illustrator and invertebrate enthusiast” Richard Lewington [Richard has a website showing his art here]. Richard was running a moth trap in the night when he found this beauty: Very weird moth last night, bilateral gynandromorph Turnip. Male left, female right […]

Matthew’s Guardian piece on Franklin, Watson, and Crick

As you may know, Matthew Cobb’s engaging new book, Life’s Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code, came out in the UK in June, and will come out in the US on July 7.  You might want to preorder it if if you want a cracking good story of modern science, one […]

One-day special from the TLS: access to a long (and favorable) review of Steve Weinberg’s new book

In February I announced the publication of physicist Steven Weinberg’s new book on the history of science, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, and included two excerpts he sent us to give an idea of the contents. Now, for one day only, the Times Literary Supplement is offering a free look at its long (and […]

Steven Weinberg’s new book on the history of science (with excerpts)

It’s a great pity that Steven Weinberg’s new book on the history of science, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, is coming out too late to be included in my own book, in which I discuss the apologists’ contention that science was an outgrowth of medieval Christianity. Weinberg’s book, whose existence I discovered through a […]

“Yours in distress”: a letter from Alan Turing

From Letters of Note we get a poignant letter from Alan Turing (1912-1954) written to the mathematician Normal Routledge in 1952, shortly before Turing pleaded guilty to “gross indecency” for having sexual relations with men. (It’s hard to imagine that being a crime, but of course it was the situation for many years in England; it was, in […]

The National Academy honors Ernst Mayr

by Greg Mayer Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, an architect of the “Modern Synthesis” of evolutionary biology which harmonized Mendelism and Darwinism and showed that the phenomena of paleontology, systematics, and genetics formed a mutually consistent and coherent whole. Mayr in particular identified and explicated the importance […]


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