Archive by category | Genetics

Bricks + Mortals: mapping the racist roots of science

Subhadra Das,xxx

If walls could speak: the saying might have been tailor-made for University College London’s new exhibition. Bricks + Mortals uses the campus buildings to tell the story of how eugenics gained a foothold at the university over a century ago. The epicentre, a lab for “national eugenics”, was set up in the early 1900s by Francis Galton, the Victorian mathematician and ‘father of eugenics’ whose crude bolting of statistics to human variety marks a nadir of modern science. Several UCL buildings and lecture theatres still bear the names of eugenicists.  Read more

Ancient DNA and the rise of ‘celebrity science’

Elizabeth Jones.

Whether it’s about Neanderthal-human interbreeding or the prospect of resurrecting woolly mammoths, the public cannot seem to hear enough about ancient-DNA research. For science historian Elizabeth Jones, ancient DNA offered an opportunity to study the development of a field in the crucible of intense public interest. She defines the phenomenon as “celebrity science”, in which scientists harness attention to generate interest in their work and capture future funding.  Read more

Tracking the propulsive power of science books

Tracking the propulsive power of science books

What makes a science tome so audacious, original and right that it kickstarts a life’s journey, propelling someone to the bench or field? Science writer Ann Finkbeiner (of The Last Word on Nothing) has written about that for A View from the Bridge. And when Academic Book Week fired up on 23 January, I started musing anew about encounters with remarkable books.  Read more

Humboldt biography wins Royal Society prize

Alexander von Humboldt (oil painting by Friedrich Georg Weitsch, 1806).

If fame were measured in namesakes, Alexander von Humboldt might reign supreme. The moniker of the brilliant biogeographer, naturalist and explorer graces dozens of species and phenomena, from the hog-nosed skunk Conepatus humboldtii to a sinkhole in Venezuela. Yet the Prussian polymath’s reputation has lagged somewhat behind that of, say, Charles Darwin. Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature went some way towards changing all that. Now this immensely acclaimed biography is burnished anew by winning the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize, sponsored by Inside Investment.  Read more

A scintillating shortlist for the Royal Society prize

A scintillating shortlist for the Royal Society prize

As the literati strive to predict the future of the book, one thing is clear in the here and now: the best of popular science writing is still all about clarity, rigour and brio. This year’s six-book shortlist for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books bristles with that mix.  Read more