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Mini Pin-It Reviews #18 – Four Random Books

Published February 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four random books for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements – Sam Kean

What’s it all about?:

The Periodic Table is one of man’s crowning scientific achievements. But it’s also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues’ wives when she’d invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it’s all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

What’s it all about?:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Moth – Catherine Burns (editor)

What’s it all about?:

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Before television and radio, before penny paperbacks and mass literacy, people would gather on porches, on the steps outside their homes, and tell stories. The storytellers knew their craft and bewitched listeners would sit and listen long into the night as moths flitted around overhead. The Moth is a non-profit group that is trying to recapture this lost art, helping storytellers – old hands and novices alike – hone their stories before playing to packed crowds at sold-out live events.

The very best of these stories are collected here: whether it’s Bill Clinton’s hell-raising press secretary or a leading geneticist with a family secret; a doctor whisked away by nuns to Mother Teresa’s bedside or a film director saving her father’s Chinatown store from money-grabbing developers; the Sultan of Brunei’s concubine or a friend of Hemingway’s who accidentally talks himself into a role as a substitute bullfighter, these eccentric, pitch-perfect stories – all, amazingly, true – range from the poignant to the downright hilarious.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Chimes – Anna Smaill

What’s it all about?:

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Author Requests.

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Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #3

Published December 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

For my very first Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my second Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

Anyway – on with the tag, here is the third shelf of my first bookshelf (I’ve chosen to split it up into two separate shelfies because of the sheer number of books (oops!) so here is the back shelf):

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Yes! For once there is some proper organisation on my bookshelves! This back shelf consists of some of my favourite books, (usually five stars) some I can’t bear to throw away but weren’t necessarily five star reads and the Throne Of Glass series so far which I adore.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

I’m going to mention a book you can hardly see, the lighting is quite bad (sorry!) and it’s quite a slim little thing. It’s Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This book is so special to me, it was one of my favourite reads from childhood and I read it again a few years ago as part of my Kid Lit challenge with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I’m quite the arachnophobic so you would think a book with a spider as one of its main characters would be hideous for me but I adored Charlotte and of course, the entire story. Super nostalgic!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

I bet my sister is laughing at me right now. When she did her Shelfie by Shelfie (check out her post HERE) she decided to do her favourites shelf and I had a chuckle at her when she told me off for this question! Ugh – okay I have to answer it….I made her answer it. It would be The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It’s such a brilliant non-fiction science book but I’m honestly not sure if I would read it cover to cover again in the near future.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Easy peasy for this one (although I was torn for a second between two). It would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I’m a bit of a Ness fangirl and this copy of the illustrated edition is actually signed by the great man himself when I met him at YALC. It’s very precious to me!

How lucky am I?!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

That would be Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve had this exact copy ever since I first read it when I was about fifteen I think? This is one of my all time favourite books and although it’s a bit of a beast at just over 1000 pages, I think I’m definitely due a re-read!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I read it this year and it automatically went to the favourites shelf as a definite five star read. This is a proof copy but I’m planning to buy a final paperback version soon as it’s one I’m going to be keeping and re-reading in the future.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I think I’d really like to re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger quite soon. I read it in my pre-blogging days and thought the intricacies of the story were absolutely beautiful. I’d love to write a review on it after reading it for the second time – hopefully I’ll love it just as much!

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There isn’t any object on this shelf, there’s no room for anything else apart from books (and even then, not enough room for some of them, eek!).

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It tells you some of my favourite books of all time and again, probably says something about the eclectic taste I have as a reader. There are so many genres up there – YA, romance, classics, thrillers, science fiction and historical fiction. I like to push the boat out in terms of what I read and don’t like to chain myself to a particular genre.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Anyone who wants to do this, please feel free, I’d be delighted but please tag me in your post so I can see your shelfie in all its glory. This time round I’m going to choose a question for myself:

Is there any book on this shelf that you’ve had a strong emotional response to?

As this is a favourites shelf, there’s been quite a few. I tend to want to keep books that elicit any emotion from me whether that’s sadness or happiness. I’m going to choose The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It was a recommendation from a podcast I used to listen to, sadly no longer running called Books On The Nightstand. When I first started reading it, I found it a little slow but I wasn’t prepared for how much I became invested in the story and some of the events of the novel were incredibly harrowing.

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #4

 

 

The Secret Life Of Sleep – Kat Duff

Published December 30, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

What makes us cross the line from waking to slumber? According to Harvard scientists it’s our ‘sleep switch’ – a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus. For the ancient Greeks it was the god Hypnos, caressing you with his wings. For the Blackfeet Indians, a butterfly. And in European children’s tales, the Sandman, sprinkling you with dust.

Why do we sleep? What happens in our brains when we sleep? Why are sleep patterns in modern Western industrialised countries so unhealthy? Is the boundary between sleep and wakefulness as clear cut as we might have supposed? How meaningful are dreams? Kat Duff brings insights from her own life, from the latest in sleep science, the paintings of Salvidor Dali, the musings of Michel de Montaigne, and wisdom and rituals from around the world and the past to paint a fascinating picture of a world that is both the most intimate and the most secret to us: sleep.

What did I think?:

From time to time I do enjoy a good non-fiction read, especially in the field of popular science as it relates to what I do for a living. When I saw this book in my local bookshop, I couldn’t resist. Neuroscience is probably one of my favourite areas so I find anything that involves how our brain works fascinating and irresistible. I was pleased to see that the author covers a wide range of topics related to sleep, including dreams and their possible interpretations, sleep deprivation, sleep paralysis, sleep walking and most interestingly for me, how other cultures view sleep both historically and currently.

I always hope to come out of a book like this with lots of lovely new information to store away and remember at some point in the future (usually inane facts to bore my friends and family with!). For example, the author recounts a story of a sleep-walking woman in Denver who got in her car, drove down the road, caused an accident, urinated in the middle of an intersection and became violent with police – all while still asleep! We also learn about whales and dolphins who always sleep with one hemisphere of their brain awake as they need to be able to breathe. Therefore, they float on the surface of the water while one side sleeps then change direction to give the other side a little rest. It was while reading passages like these that I enjoyed the book most.

Perhaps it’s a personal preference but the author seemed to put more of her own anecdotes in compared to good, solid, scientific fact. While it was interesting to read her theories and opinions at times I wished for a slightly more analytical look at such a fascinating topic. She writes in a beautiful way although some people might consider her language a bit too “flowery,” for a non-fiction book. Personally, I found her prose to be something a bit different and it did bring a certain flair to sections which may otherwise seem a bit dry. It looked at sleep from a variety of different angles i.e. psychology, philosophy, mythology which was interesting but sometimes I found things to be a little irrelevant. I don’t think I’ve read a book which solely focuses on sleep before so I don’t really have anything to compare it to but I think to anyone who is interested in the subject it’s a decent enough read and at the end, I did feel like I had learned a few things.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

The Tale Of The Duelling Neurosurgeons: The History Of The Human Brain As Revealed By True Stories Of Trauma, Madness and Recovery – Sam Kean

Published November 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From the author of the best-seller The Disappearing Spoon, tales of the brain and the history of neuroscience.

Early studies of the functions of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike-strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, lobotomies, horrendous accidents-and see how the victim coped. In many cases survival was miraculous, and observers could only marvel at the transformations that took place afterward, altering victims’ personalities. An injury to one section can leave a person unable to recognize loved ones; some brain trauma can even make you a pathological gambler, paedophile, or liar. But a few scientists realized that these injuries were an opportunity for studying brain function at its extremes. With lucid explanations and incisive wit, Sam Kean explains the brain’s secret passageways while recounting forgotten stories of common people whose struggles, resiliency, and deep humanity made modern neuroscience possible.

What did I think?:

I couldn’t resist The Duelling Neurosurgeons when I saw it, it’s got everything I could possibly ask for from a popular science book. Firstly, it focuses on arguably the most exciting and mysterious organ in the human body – the brain, which has always fascinated me ever since I studied a module on neuroscience as part of my first degree. Secondly, it combines triumphs (and disasters) of neurosurgeons through history and provides case studies of “real,” patients, some of whom left me dumbfounded. For example, the blind man who travelled the world by using echolocation and textbook studies such as Phineas Gage who received such a traumatic brain injury that it ended up changing his entire personality. Finally (and perhaps one of the things that excited me the most), Sam Kean introduces each chapter by providing a little puzzle or “rebus” to illustrate what the content of that particular chapter might be about.

Print

This was so much fun and I was quite strict with myself, not going on to read the chapter until I had figured out the rebus. This proved quite frustrating with some of the trickier images!

Why The Duelling Neurosurgeons? Well, it all starts in 1559 where King Henri II of France receives a traumatic injury to his brain after a jousting accident. The two most prominent brain doctors of the day, Paré and Vesalius (who also founded what we know now as modern anatomy) were called to his bedside and although some of their methods for treating the king were quite primitive, essentially they both led the way for further experimentation and brain surgery today. For example, Paré was quite keen on strange concoctions and compresses, one in particular consisted of egg yolk, turpentine, earthworms and dead puppies. Each to their own I guess?!… He also devised a strange experiment that allowed him to differentiate between fatty tissue and brain tissue in a frying pan where fat was seen to liquefy and brain would shrivel.

There is a wealth of interesting information from case studies put forward in this book but I’ll just mention a couple of my favourites. The section on phantom limbs, where someone who has recently had a limb amputated can still feel pain in the area that the limb used to be was fascinating but did you know that some women who have had complete hysterectomies can still have phantom menstrual pains? Or there are even such things as phantom teeth, phantom penises and phantom erections? The topics covered by the author are intriguing, informative and endlessly thought-provoking. In fact, I’ve never had so much fun before reading a popular science book. I have the author’s first two books to read on my Kindle – The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb and if they’re half as entertaining as this one was, I’m in for a treat. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this surprising and brilliant organ.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Extremes: Life, Death And The Limits Of The Human Body – Kevin Fong

Published September 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Drawing on his own experiences in trauma surgery as an anaesthetist and intensive care expert, ‘Extremes’ is Kevin Fong’s account of the way cutting-edge medicine is pushing the envelope of human survival.

What did I think?:

Along with the mountain load of fiction I read, I love to throw a non-fiction book into the mix from time to time especially popular science as it relates to my day job (scientist by day, blogger by night!). Extremes looked particularly good when I spied it on the shelves in my local library, I was intrigued not only by the title but by the anticipated content. Dr Kevin Fong has a degree in astrophysics, a topic which has fascinated him from an early age but he also made it through medical school. He is based at University College Hospital, London as a consultant anaesthetist with a special interest in trauma therefore has a wealth of knowledge and experience under his belt for writing this book. He breaks it down into nine separate chapters entitled: ICE, FIRE, HEART, TRAUMA, INTENSIVE CARE, WATER, ORBIT, MARS and FINAL FRONTIERS and explains in each chapter how the human body reacts, copes and deals with extreme circumstances.

I really loved the way in which this book was presented. The author takes us back into history for example discussing the fate of poor explorer Robert Falcon Scott in 1910 who became severely hypothermic and died when faced with the adverse weather conditions of the South Pole. The author will then build on the historical information that we are given and describe the amazing frontier that we have reached nowadays. Think about a heart bypass operation where the body is cooled down and its processes taken over by a heart-lung machine so that surgeons can begin their repair of the heart without fear of the body becoming toxic or the irreparable effects of the lack of oxygen on the brain. It is down to an explosion in technology and improved knowledge of our physiology that the greatest scientists and doctors have been able to provide us with better care and indeed, prolong or save our lives in a critical situation.

One of my favourite bits of our history was reading about the renowned surgeon Archibald McIndoe who became a pioneer and probably invented the field of plastic surgery during World War II, after treating hundreds of young soldiers with horrific burn injuries. He would take a piece of skin from a normal part of the body i.e. not burned and graft it onto the burned site, such as the face. The only problem with this they found was that for the “new skin,” to develop its own blood supply correctly it initially had to be attached to the place where the skin was taken in the first place. If you’ve seen pictures of men with their noses attached to their arms, that’s what I’m alluding to but here’s a picture to make it clearer.

extremes

Image courtesy of http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/4274838.stm

Another thing that I loved about this book was Dr Fong’s own anecdotes like the time in 1999 when he was a newly qualified doctor and his surgical team were called to the site of a bombing in Soho. The way he describes seeing the carnage was almost heart-breaking and it emphasised the importance for him of three little letters – A (for Airway) B (for Breathing) and C (for Circulation) when dealing with a severe incident such as this. On a more light-hearted note, he also describes being lucky (or unlucky) enough to ride on the “vomit comet.” This is a special aeroplane which climbs to 35,000 feet before the plane free-falling through the air for twenty seconds or so. It is supposed to simulate weightlessness in the way that astronauts experience while in space. From his description though, I’m not sure he will be repeating the experience!

The author finishes Extremes with a couple of chapters about space and the race to get the first man on Mars. It wasn’t my favourite part of the book although I did find it interesting and it is obviously a great passion for the author, who has also had a placement at NASA. Overall, this is a terrific read. If you’re interested in the human body, particularly in how we struggle in severe situations, this is the book for you. You don’t have to have a scientific background to read it, it is explained very simply without ever once being patronising. Kevin Fong manages to mix historical evidence and personal experience with a sound knowledge and relaxed writing style to put his readers at ease and enthrall us. If he decides to write another, I’ll be sure to read it and then tell you all about it of course!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

The Neurotourist: Postcards From The Edge Of Brain Science – Lone Frank

Published January 21, 2015 by bibliobeth

The Neurotourist: Postcards from the Edge of Brain Science

What’s it all about?:

Discover the true heart of humanity: the brain. Your brain shapes your world, but you can also shape your brain. From the God helmet to the No Lie MRI, award-winning journalist Lone Frank embarks on an incredible adventure to the frontiers of neuroscience, revealing how today’s top scientists are reinventing human nature, morality, happiness, health, and reality itself. Interlacing bizarre experiments, cutting-edge research, and irreverent interviews, The Neurotourist is an unforgettable tour of the mind-bending revolution underway in the new age of the brain. A critically-acclaimed journalist, science writer, and TV presenter, Lone Frank also holds a PhD in neurobiology and has worked as a research scientist in Denmark and the US. Apart from a particularly ‘cute’ corpus callosum she has an expert’s word that her brain is quite unremarkable.

What did I think?:

I was quite excited when I saw this title at my local library as my favourite non-fiction books are usually science-based and I’m fascinated with the whole area of neuroscience which is constantly changing as we learn more about the mysterious goings-on of our brains. Looking at the contents page also provides some scope for excitement with intriguing titles such as “Finding God in the synapses: your own personal Jesus,” “Happiness is a cognitive workout,” and “Lies, damn lies – the prints are all over your cortex.” So, interesting content and a science writer with a sense of humour… sounds like my perfect book but in reality I’m afraid it fell slightly flat.

This is not to say that this is a bad read because it definitely isn’t and I guess it just depends what you’re looking for from the book. It’s chock-a-block with interesting facts and figures and I enjoyed reading about the number of studies that have been carried out in the name of neuroscience, bad or good depending on the answers it gave the researchers and in many cases, from the author’s personal (and often strong) opinion! One particularly mind-boggling and often controversial example is the area of religion when associated with the brain.

Basically, from a very young age, our surroundings and parental beliefs have a direct impact on what is hard-wired into the brain in much the same way that we learn the complexities of language. Having a large amount of serotonin (that happy hormone) in our brains affects the extent to which a person is spiritual and researchers have shown that actual spiritual experiences can be induced by increasing the brain’s natural supply of our own personal opiate system. One of my favourite experimental examples related to this is “The God Helmet.” This was a piece of apparatus developed by scientists Koren and Persinger to study events occurring when the temporal lobe of the brain was stimulated. Our author was the perfect test subject as she noted the feeling of a “presence,” when wearing the helmet. Persinger has confirmed that for several subjects “mystical experiences and altered states,” were reported but what does this mean for religion? Is it just because our temporal lobe has been stimulated that we are aware of the presence of God? Other scientists seem to think so and have quite a lot to say about religion: Boyer called it “a parasite on our cognitive apparatus,” and more recently the loud and proud atheist Richard Dawkins said it was “comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.” Yikes, I may not be a religious person but harsh words, Mr Dawkins!

I think the above chapter on religion was probably my favourite point of the entire book as other chapters focused on economics, ethics and marketing which although easy to read became slightly dull and are not really my cup of tea. Perhaps I was expecting too much from this book as unfortunately I didn’t really find out anything I didn’t know already. Although some parts were humorous I did also feel that the author tended to get on her soap box and was rather close-minded when discussing a personal opinion of her own that she was convinced was correct/the only possible explanation. Saying that, her passion for the subject area cannot be faulted and may be a writing style that can be appreciated by a different reader.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA – Brenda Maddox

Published November 21, 2014 by bibliobeth

640204

What’s it all about?:

Our dark lady is leaving us next week; on the 7th of March, 1953 Maurice Wilkins of King’s College, London, wrote to Francis Crick at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge to say that as soon as his obstructive female colleague was gone from King’s, he, Crick, and James Watson, a young American working with Crick, could go full speed ahead with solving the structure of the DNA molecule that lies in every gene. Not long after, the pair announced to the world that they had discovered the secret of life. But could Crick and Watson have done it without the dark lady? In two years at King’s, Rosalind Franklin had made major contributions to the understanding of DNA. She established its existence in two forms and she worked out the position of the phosphorous atoms in its backbone. Most crucially, using X-ray techniques that may have contributed significantly to her later death from cancer at the tragically young age of 37, she had taken beautiful photographs of the patterns of DNA.

What did I think?:

Rosalind Franklin is unfortunately probably best known for not achieving the recognition she should have got in life for unravelling the secrets of DNA. Instead, two scientists called Francis Crick and James Watson boldly used parts of her work to find out the secrets for themselves and published their findings which led to them winning the Nobel Prize. Personally, I was aware of the dis-service that had been done to Franklin but did not realise until reading this book exactly how much her work had contributed to the unveiling of “the molecule of life.” The book tends not to focus too much on the early part of Rosalind’s life as it is when she becomes a scientist, the true nature of this independent, determined and highly intelligent woman is realised. However, a couple of things sprang to my attention from her early life. Firstly, a letter written by one of her relations describes the young Rosalind as:

“alarmingly clever – she spends all her time doing arithmetic for pleasure & invariably gets her sums right.”

Although the word “alarmingly” is probably meant as an endearment it resonates from a time when females were not expected to be clever as managing their household and pleasing their husbands was probably the best they could amount to. It is no wonder that Rosalind has become somewhat of a feminist icon. After all, being Jewish, female and a scientist in times which were not friendly to all three is a tremendous achievement. Being a bit radical also ran in her family as her Uncle Hugh, a pro-suffragist, attempted to attack Winston Churchill with a dog whip due to his opposition to women’s suffrage. Rosalind knew herself from the age of twelve that she wanted to become a scientist and certainly fit the criteria according to Einstein:

“a scientist makes science the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.”

Rosalind Franklin (picture from mysciencebox.org)

She first began to make a difference during the war where she was employed by the British Coal Utilisation Research Association studying the porous nature of coal and the density of helium. Her work there led to coals being classified, predicting their potential for fuel and for the production of essential devices i.e. gas masks. In 1946, she extended her CV and broadened her skills by studying X-ray diffraction with the French scientist Jacques Mering, a technique that would prove crucial and valuable in her later work with DNA. It was during her next post with Kings College that she finally made her mark, discovering that there were two forms of DNA and that they were helical in structure. Indeed, her X ray photographs of the molecule were pronounced by J.D. Bernal to be amongst the most beautiful X ray photographs of any substance ever taken.

Enter Watson and Crick, who were currently working on producing a model of the structure of DNA but were having a few technical problems with discovering exactly where each bit went. Papers and photographs belonging to Franklin were given to Crick on the sly causing them to pronounce that they had discovered “the secret of life.” Shockingly, they then went on to publish their paper in the journal Nature in the spring of 1953 with only a short footnote regarding the “general knowledge” of Franklin’s contribution. Franklin’s paper did follow but due to the order of publishing, it seemed only support for Watson and Crick’s amazing discovery, rather than revealing who exactly had done all the legwork. Unpublished drafts of her papers revealed that it was she alone who had discovered the overall form of the molecule with the location of the phosphate groups on the outside. Rosalind went on to carry out brilliant work on the tobacco mosaic and polio virus but tragically succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1958 at just 37 years of age.

I found this book to be an absolutely fascinating read even if I did get carried away a bit at times with the injustice done to Rosalind Franklin and the tragic end to her life. She wasn’t particularly careful when using radiation and tended to just “get on with it,” neglecting to wear appropriate protective coverings or adhere to our now stringent safety requirements when dealing with such a hazardous substance. Could this have contributed to the development of her cancer? She was also a very interesting person, perhaps a bit prickly at first and difficult to get to know but she was immensely passionate about many things besides her beloved science – for example, travelling and climbing and was a fiercely loyal friend. For me, it was wonderful to read an interesting account of a woman that made such a difference even if it was sadly not recognised in her own lifetime.

Would I recommend it?

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars