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Is Science Necessary?: Essays on Science and Scientists
     

Is Science Necessary?: Essays on Science and Scientists

by Max F. Perutz
 

The double-edged sword modern science wields has excited controversy for years, and there is no end to the debate in sight. The genetic engineering that may one day cure cancer could also deprive the human race of its very individuality. Chemicals like DDT, which have increased food production the world over—saving millions from starvation—have also

Overview

The double-edged sword modern science wields has excited controversy for years, and there is no end to the debate in sight. The genetic engineering that may one day cure cancer could also deprive the human race of its very individuality. Chemicals like DDT, which have increased food production the world over—saving millions from starvation—have also seriously polluted our environment. And most notoriously, the nuclear technology that provides us with cheap and efficient energy also fuels the horrifying weaponry of Armageddon. Such contradictions have prompted Nobel Prize-winning scientist Max F. Perutz to ask quite simply "Is science necessary?"
Throughout this provocative collection of essays—a unique blend of history, criticism, philosophy, and memoir—Perutz answers his question with a resounding "yes." Ranging from the title piece, where he examines the crucial role science has played in every aspect of modern life, to striking portraits of such great scientists as Alexander Fleming, Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck, and Chaim Weizmann, Perutz's essays demonstrate how "the survival of nature and of civilization" depends upon an intelligent and scrupulous application of science, and an understanding—by all of us—of its basic ways and means.
Some of the most compelling essays are of a personal nature. "Enemy Alien" tells the troubling story of Perutz's deportation from England as a German national during the Second World War. He provides fascinating insights into the secret military projects he worked on after the war, the most interesting of which a futuristic attempt to convert icebergs into aircraft carriers. And throughout Perutz writes of the excitement of discovery—whether of a revolutionary new medicine like penicillin or of theories such as quantum physics that forever changed the way we look at the world.
Far from being "a soulless hermit toiling away at abstruse problems that he cannot explain except in incomprehensible gibberish," the scientist, as Perutz presents him, is as impassioned as the artist, and it is from his creative energies that the most important advances in science emerge. Moving, humorous, clearly written, and, above all, enlightening, these essays help readers become aware not only of the indispensable function of science in today's world, but of the very nature of scientific inquiry itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1940, Perutz, then an Austrian refugee scientist living in England, was arrested and deported to Canada by British officials; in Quebec he studied theoretical physics with Klaus Fuchs, who later passed atomic secrets to the Russians. This experience forms the basis for ``Enemy Alien,'' the strongest essay in this miscellany by a Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist. ``Atom Spy,'' a companion piece, traces Fuchs's resolve to decide the world's fate to an arrogance bordering on megalomania. The title essay, a review of practical applications of science, scrutinizes advances in pest control, renewable energy, contraceptives, genetic engineering and medicine. In human terms, Perutz profiles eccentric Scotsman Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, and Max Planck, rebel and fighter, who introduced the revolutionary concept of the quantum. In a dozen book reviews, he offers acute observations on AIDS research, organ transplants, advances in vaccines and Darwinism. (Feb.)
Booknews
Essays on the roles and purposes of science by a Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist. For general audiences. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780192861184
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
04/04/1991
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.06(w) x 7.69(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Max F. Perutz was winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. His other awards include the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, and the Her Majesty the Queen's Order of Merit.

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