Posted by: Dan | August 6, 2007

Lives of a Cell

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Twenty-odd years before anyone had conceived of blogging, much less blogging about science, Lewis Thomas was publishing a handful of books that were on science, creative and pithy, and little more than a collection of loosely-connected essays. Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, is one of his more popular collections, and is a favorite among a number of biologists (so I’ve heard) for light reading.

So two things have occurred to me after having read Thomas’ writings: (1) why are creative science writing books so few and far between (I can’t think of anything remotely like this), and (2) why not me, with my own flair, of course?



  1. How about David Quammen’s collections of natural history essays, most done for Outside Magazine?

    Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature (1985)

    The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature (1988)

    Wild Thoughts from Wild Places (1998)

    The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder (2000)

  2. Quammen is a good example of some more creative science writing. Thanks for reminding me of him, and I’ll look up those essays!

  3. I’ve read Lives of a Cell. I’ve read <i?the Flight of the Iguana. Neither one excited me that much.

  4. Care to elaborate, Ivy? Please don’t just throw something out there like that and not explain…

  5. Since it is a personal reaction, there is no position to defend.

    RE: FotI – I’m sorry, there’s something about Quammen’s prose that puts me to sleep.

    RE: LoaC – The material is heavily redundant. I don’t know how many times Thomas mentioned endosymbiosis in the various essays. Other than that, it just didn’t trip my trigger. Multitudinous copies of this are always available at the Friends of the Library Book Sale, along with Sagan’s lesser works.

  6. No, I wasn’t asking you to defend, so much as explain what it was that you didn’t like about the books. I would’ve hoped for an explanation had you liked the books as well… not doing so kinda kills the possibilities for discussion.



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