Cover: Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science, from Harvard University PressCover: Lives of a Biologist in HARDCOVER

Lives of a Biologist

Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science

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$52.00 • £45.95 • €47.95

ISBN 9780674007635

Publication Date: 05/24/2002


238 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


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Here is a man of prodigious scientific talent, who emerges in Lives of a Biologist as the best kind of scientist—a man fascinated by the things he is investigating, and finding great joy in them… This is a life well and fulfillingly lived, told with warmth and humor.—John R. G. Turner, The New York Times Book Review

John Tyler Bonner had the luck to be born into a family that lived a charmed life, the fortune to find a lifelong passion and the timing to live at the heyday of his favorite subject. In his autobiography, Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science, Bonner…smoothly integrates advances in biology during the 20th century with tales from a life that now stretches into its ninth decade. In simple but elegant prose, he revisits some of the most important biological advances, from embryology to molecular genetics.—Sally Squires, The Washington Post

This memoir by the great celebrant of slime moulds offers a fascinating overview of a century of biology. Bonner tells of changes in biological thinking, and his own pervasive influence in the study of life cycles and morphogenesis.New Scientist

Bonner has devoted much of his imaginative and creative biological research of the intervening years to cellular slime molds, which lead fascinating and, before Bonner’s work, previously largely unexplained lives. His accounts of his and his graduate students’ thinking and experiments convey much of the scientific approach to problems lucidly, and those of his travels, his vacations in Nova Scotia over the course of 40 years, and the many amusing and illuminating incidents in his life reflect a refreshing open-mindedness. This is one scientist’s autobiography that manages to be simultaneously delightful and strikingly informative.—William Beatty, Booklist

[A] gracefully written memoir… Bonner, who began his career as an embryologist, provides many insights regarding the changing fashions he and others have observed in the field of developmental biology.—K. B. Sterling, Choice

A charming memoir combining autobiography and a 20th-century history of biology. ‘A gentleman and a scholar’ aptly describes Bonner… Bonner’s own lifecycle makes for pleasant reading and inspires a new respect for slime molds.Kirkus Reviews

This charming and unduly modest book is part memoir, part distillation of 20th-century biology, as told by an eminent researcher, writer and teacher who witnessed much of it firsthand. Bonner…invokes life cycles and development, his specialties, to talk about the last century’s gigantic steps forward in biology. He covers advances in biochemistry, population genetics and embryology; the discovery of DNA structure; and the human genome project. Against this parade of discoveries, Bonner considers his own career, which included everything from animal social behavior to evolution.Publishers Weekly

A charming, personal account of the ascendance of the life sciences to their current dominance by someone who has been there. Few biologists grasp their discipline at as many levels as John Tyler Bonner does, and even fewer can claim as many firsthand encounters with the greats of the past century. The result is an autobiography that is both delightful and informative.—Frans de Waal, Living Links Center at Emory University

A gracious and immensely enjoyable memoir from an era in which scientists could still be gentlemen. Bonner’s generosity of spirit shines through on almost every page.—Evelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Surely there can be few scientists with the breadth of knowledge, the puckish wit, and the all-round modest good humor that John Bonner displays in this splendid memoir. Long may he write!—Anne Firor Scott, W. K. Boyd Professor of History Emerita, Duke University

This is a delightful memoir by one of the most charming and well-spoken biologists on the planet. John Tyler Bonner’s career now spans half a dozen scientific generations, from each of which he has gathered friends and wisdom. In looking back, he illuminates both the story of his life and the story of life.—Jonathan Weiner, author of The Beak of the Finch and Time, Love, and Memory

Imagine a wonderful writer who just keeps writing book after book and just keeps getting more and more readable with each one. That’s John Bonner. Now he’s done a memoir full of magic names from the past, where his kind humor softens a keen eye for human antics including his own. If you like biology, biography, and history of science and don’t mind having fun reading it, then this book is for you. I would get two, one to keep and one to loan.—Mary Jane West-Eberhard, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Awards & Accolades

  • Third Place in Autobiography, 2002 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards

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