Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor’s Tale, and The God Delusion, needs no introduction having established himself as a reputable voice when discussing science in its many forms. His latest effort is The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, in a hefty tome, where Dawkins attempts to present a concise view of science to the world in many short passages from many different scientists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that tessellate together to form a beautiful volume of writing.
The book is divided into four parts, as Dawkins organizes the vast wealth of science writing available not in chronological order, but groups the extracts into the following categories: “What Scientists Study,” “Who Scientists Are,” “What Scientists Think,” “What Scientists Delight in.” Organizing it this ways serves to make the book more entertaining in the variety of subjects that are presented when the book is read from cover to cover. Should the reader want to use the book more as a reference tool or to look up some specific authors or terms, there is a thorough index at the end of the book. With each extract, Dawkins offers up his own commentary and reason for choosing the specific piece.
All the great scientists make an appearance here: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Brian Greene, Jared Diamond, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Primo Levi, the list goes on and on. But this list is not reserved for the greats of science, but many of the women and men who have worked hard in their lives to further the knowledge of science in areas such as genetics, evolution, string theory, relativity, and mathematics. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a weighty, comprehensive book with almost everything science has had to offer in the last hundred years or so, and while it may not be for the science novice, the ideas, theories, and hypotheses expressed in this book have reshaped science, and offered up hope and ideals for future answers and theories that will continue to change the world as we know it.
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Originally written on October 10th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.