The announcement of the winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books was preceded by a glorious evening of entertainment, brilliantly compered by the erudite and avuncular Dara Ó Briain. All the shortlisted authors had made their way to the Royal Society, in one case from as far afield as California, and performed to an auditorium packed with science enthusiasts.
Proceedings kicked off with each author reading a short excerpt from his book and discussing it with Ó Briain. Up first was Tim Birkhead, who entertained with extraordinary tales of bird sex, vision and olfactory bulbs. He was followed by Sean Carroll, who speculated on what CERN might find next, then Enrico Coen, who talked about how humanity’s cultural achievements reflect our biology. Charles Fernyhough came next, expanding on our ideas of memory and the complex ways in which we create them, and Caspar Henderson followed, touching on the history of bestiaries (Ó Briain described his book as the one that could be “best rewritten by monks”, much to Henderson’s amusement) and the wonder he felt for the natural world. Callum Roberts finished off the readings and discussed how he believed the solutions to the damage done to our oceans were actually very straightforward, but implementation would be much harder.
Following further discussion, Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, and David Harding, founder of the sponsor, Winton Capital Management, took to the stage to announce the winner. After a slightly excruciating few seconds, in which the slide announcing the winner was briefly flashed onto the stage, Nurse finally plucked the card with the winning name from a recalcitrant envelope and announced that the 2013 prize had been awarded to Sean Carroll for The Particle at the End of the Universe. A charming acceptance speech from Carroll followed in which he highlighted the enormity of the work to find the Higgs boson and the gratitude he felt to all the scientists involved. It was an excellent end to a fascinating event and, for many, just the start of a long night of celebration.
If any of this has piqued your interest, you can revisit the book reviews here: Bird Sense, The Particle at the End of the Universe, Cells to Civilisations, Pieces of Light, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings and Ocean of Life.
Of Schemes and Memes has been running a competition to win a set of the shortlist – the winner of our prize draw will be announced soon!
Alice Henchley has been Head of Press at Nature since the start of 2013. Prior to that she worked at the Royal Society and the Zoological Society of London, communicating everything from population policy to conservation of the world’s most extraordinary animals.