i wish i'd made you angry earlier
Post on 21-Jul-2016
Embed Size (px)
NATURE MEDICINE VOLUME 4 NUMBER 12 DECEMBER 1998 1445
I Wish Id Made YouAngry Earlier
ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS
by Max F. PerutzCold Spring Harbor Laboratory, $39, 354 pp.
ISBN 0-879-69524-2, 1998
REVIEWED BY SIR JAMES BLACKJames Black Foundation
68 Half Moon LaneDulwhich, London SE24 9JE, UK
Max Perutz is renowned for discoveringthe structure of hemoglobin. He and hiscolleagues disclosed the tetrameric struc-ture of methemoglobin in 1970, 33 yearsafter he had set himself that task whilestill a graduate student at Cambridge.Theres devotion for you!
This book is a collection of his essays,and in one of the best, The SecondSecret of Life, he describes how thedynamics of the three-dimensional struc-ture of hemoglobin, atomic positionalchanges of a mere half-angstrom unit,make respiratory physiology, and life aswe know it, possiblemolecular biologyat its most dramatic.
In a sense, Perutz has written a kind ofautobiography with this book. All of theessays tell us about the extraordinaryrange of ideas that excite him, and inreading it, I had the feeling that therewas a connecting threada curiosityabout the process of scientific discovery.
In I Wish Id Made You AngrierEarlier, he recounts a defining momentin his early struggles to interpret proteincrystallography. The title quotes thereaction of his mentor, W.L. Bragg, toPerutz kicking himself for havingmissed building that beautiful structurehimself. He was referring to the alphahelix as we now know it.
In Enemy Alien, Perutz describes hiswartime experiences as a prisoner of warin both the UK and Canada, and subse-quent war-time work with the govern-ment. There are some fascinatingbiographical notes in this essay.Hermann Bondi and Klaus Fuchs arevividly recalled as fellow internees. Afterhis release, Perutz collaborated withGeoffrey Pyke, who wanted to turnicebergs into aircraft carriers. Pyke was adreamer who drove the admirals mad.Needless to say, the iceberg idea eventu-ally sank.
It is easy to pick out Perutzs favorite es-
says. In Splitting the Atom, he revealshis admiration for Lise Meitners selflesspassion for science, her warmth and hersense of humor. In Liberating France,he shows his sympathy for FrancoisJacobs attitude to scientific research: alife animated as much bypassion as by logic.
Peter Medawars bril-liance and stylishness areaffectionately recalled inHigh on Science. And inWhat Holds MoleculesTogether? Perutz sums upthe incredible achieve-ments of Linus Pauling andforgives his showmanshipand geriatric aberrations.
In A Passion for Cry-stals, he makes no attemptto hide his love for fellow crystallogra-pher Dorothy Hodgkin. Of this remark-able woman he writes, there was magicabout her person. She had no enemies,not even among those whose scientifictheories she demolished or whose politi-cal views she opposed. Just as her X-raycameras bared the intrinsic beautybeneath the rough surface of things, sothe warmth and gentleness of her ap-proach to people uncovered in everyone,even the most hardened scientific crook,some hidden kernel of goodness.
Perutz gives his own assessment of the
contents of this book in the preface. Thisbook, he writes, includes detective sto-ries, tales of conflict and battle, a wom-ans love affair with crystals, a mansgruesome fascination with poison gas,cancer cures as Noble Laureates geriatric
illusions, an onslaught onsocial relativists, a warheros anticlimactic home-coming that led to a NobelPrize, phantom perilsthreatening to poison us,and real perils conqueredby silent heroes.
This is a brilliant trailerfor the book because theyare all in it. At the end ofhis preface, he invites read-ers to skip to the next essayif they dont want to
know all that. My advice to readers isthat if they have to skip something, donot skip the prefaceit is full of goodies.
The essays are beautifully written, withflashes of wit and humor. Many of theessays were written for the New YorkReview of Books; anyone addicted to that journal, as I am, will at once get afeel for the style of these essays. I readthis as a bedtime book, so I dipped into it at random. When I finally found that there was no more to read, I feltquite disappointedno more chocolatesin the box!
Human Biology andSocial Inequality
SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF HUMANBIOLOGY SYMPOSIUM 39
Edited by S.S. Strickland & P.S. Shetty
Cambridge University Press, $74.95, 360 pp.ISBN 0-521-57043-3, 1998
REVIEWED BY CHRISTOPHER J.L. MURRAY& EMMANUELA E. GAKIDOU
Burden of Disease Unit9 Bow Street
Cambridge, MA, 02138
In recent years there has been a resur-gence of interest in variation in healthstatus within populations. Health in-equalities within populations havebecome the focus of a number of descrip-tive and analytical studies, and the vol-ume Human Biology and Social Inequality,edited by Strickland and Shetty, is
another contribution to this body ofwork. A collection of 17 authored chap-ters, this book is based on the 39th sym-posium of the Society for the Study ofHuman Biology.
Human Biology and Social Inequality pre-sents a useful and informative publica-tion covering a very broad range of topicson health and social inequalities andtheir interrelation. Because it covers alarge terrainfrom the contribution ofchildhood malnutrition on conventionaltest scores and social performance, to theanalysis of female reproductive decisionsand their effect on social inequality inmale reproductive fitness in 18th- and19th-century Germanyit is difficult toadequately represent its diversity andrichness here. However, a number ofthemes arise regularly, and reflections onthese are worth serious discussion:
Health inequalitiesHealth inequalities can be defined andmeasured in many ways, some of whichare presented in different chapters in the
1998 Nature America Inc. http://medicine.nature.com