And the winner is…..
The annual award ceremony for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books is always a brilliant affair. The atmosphere is all bubbling excitement, the audience peppered with the celebrities of the science world and the event itself a joyful hurtle through some truly brilliant popular science books. Last night was no exception, as five of the six shortlisted authors took to the stage to read excerpts from their books and discuss their work with the charming Alice Roberts, who hosted with an enormously infectious enthusiasm that left the audience raring to add the titles to their Christmas lists.
President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, kicked off the evening with a brief greeting before passing over to Roberts to introduce the authors, all of whom read a short passage from their book, with John Browne sending a video message as he was sadly unable to attend. A discussion followed, with the brilliantly witty Mary Roach kicking things off to general hilarity and good humour by describing her research on utilising the body cavity to smuggle contraband in and out of US prisons. Mark Miodownik followed with an explanation of why you should never put chocolate in the fridge, George Johnson provided insight into the world of cancer research and Pedro Ferreira charmed with tales of enthusiastic relativists from the world of science. Phil Ball finished off the conversation with some truly fascinating discussion of the accuracy of the reporting of the behaviour of scientists during the Nazi regime.
Following a short speech from the sponsor, David Harding (which countered expectations of a sponsor’s speech with some self-deprecating – and not so self-deprecating – humour), Nurse announced the winner. It was a thunderstruck-looking Mark Miodownik who rose to his feet and accepted a £25,000 cheque and hefty-looking award, which we later learnt, thanks to an ecstatic Miodownik, was made of acrylic. The acceptance speech was a combination of baffled surprise and effusive thanks to a supportive family, which delighted the audience and made Miodownik, already a popular choice, a real winner with the crowd.
All in all, it was a great event and one of the highlights of the London science calendar that left me excited for next year’s prize and busily purchasing the shortlist for this year’s Christmas presents.
Read the full list of nominees and the reviews by the Nature press team here:
- Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball – Michael’s Musings
- Seven Elements That Have Changed the World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon by John Browne – Neda’s Notes
- The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity by Pedro G. Ferreira – Lisa’s Literature Lowdown
- The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery by George Johnson – Sarah’s Synopsis
- Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik – Alice’s Analysis
- Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach – Bex Reflects
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.