P.D. Medawar (1915–1987) was a British biologist whose research was fundamental to the development of tissue and organ transplants. Along with Frank Macfarlane Burnet, he was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Calling Dr. Cooper

In a work that is still regarded as a classic of clarity of writing and astuteness of observation, James Parkinson (1775-1824) was the first to describe “an evil from the domination of which the victim had no prospect of escape.” This was paralysis agitans, the shaking palsy that Charcot renamed …

Stretch Genes

“This book contains the first attempt to trace development all the way from genes through the mind to culture.” The authors’ illusion that this is so is owing at least in part to their neglect or ignorance of the thought of many others who have attempted to arrive at a …

Back to Evolution

When I reviewed Stephen Jay Gould’s admirable Ever Since Darwin a few years ago, I expressed the hope that he would not lay his pen aside for too long. I need not have worried, for Gould is a natural writer: he has something to say and the inclination and skill …

Comet With a Cold

I was once visited by a science writer who told me in a state of some excitement of a notion to which he attached great importance: suppose a brain to be transplanted from one person to another; would not the new identity of the recipient of the graft raise perplexing, …

In Defense of Doctors

The angle of vision from a Chair of Social Medicine such as Thomas McKeown occupied with distinction for many years in the University of Birmingham, England, is quite different from that of a physician at the bedside or a surgeon at the operating table. The difference is embodied in the …

Does Mind Matter?

“What is mind?”—no matter “What is matter?”—never mind (from Punch magazine, 1885) That thinking is something which goes on in the brain is a proposition to which we all assent unless we are being deliberately “difficult” about so commonplace a belief. Yet the evidence that it does so is …

Fear and DNA

It is the great glory as it is also the great threat of science that everything which is in principle possible can be done if the intention to do it is sufficiently resolute. Scientists may exult in the glory, but in the middle of the twentieth century the reaction of …

The Crab

Although cancer is much more often curable than its popular reputation leads one to expect, the number of its victims and the sometimes morbid dread (oncophobia) of being among them make cancer a source of human distress that is reason enough for the fear it arouses. In Latin, French, Italian, …

Unnatural Science

If a broad line of demarcation is drawn between the natural sciences and what can only be described as the unnatural sciences, it will at once be recognized as a distinguishing mark of the latter that their practitioners try most painstakingly to imitate what they believe—quite wrongly, alas for them—to …

The Strange Case of the Spotted Mice

“Can the leopard change his spots?” the prophet asked (Jeremiah, 13: 23), clearly not expecting to be told he can. Nor, indeed, can mice, except under the rather discreditable circumstances now to be outlined. It is a well-attested truth of observation that except under special and unusual circumstances skin from …

Victims of Psychiatry

In a passage in “Bread and Freedom” Camus expresses his revulsion at the way in which, in political arguments, one atrocity may be bartered for another: if one protests at some enormity of the communists, three American negroes are “thrown in one’s face.” In any such disgusting attempt at outbidding, …

How to Be Your Own Worst Enemy

It is not very surprising that, pounding away as they do, day and night, the muscles of the heart need a rich supply of blood. One might be tempted to think that with blood sloshing around in the heart all the time, nothing much more was needed, but nothing could …

The Evolution of a Proof

Although the idea of evolution was widely current before the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin’s having propounded a theory of how evolution might have come about added enormously to its credibility and the scale of its threat to settled opinion. The reception of Darwinism by the lay press …

The Ape Redressed

Niko Tinbergen is one of the founders and grandmasters of ethology, and the papers published here are among its most important documents. They are a source book for students of animal behavior and will give the historian of ideas an insight into one of the most influential movements in modern …

The Volubility of DNA

Scientists usually make their opinions and their findings known to each other through “papers”—contributions to learned societies or learned journals—by papers, that is to say, rather than by books. Every now and again there is a notable exception. One was Dobzhansky’s Genetics and the Origin of Species; a second was …

The Molecular Shadow

George Gaylord Simpson is one of the most distinguished zoologists of the present day. He was the first to apply to paleontology the special blend of genetic and “population dynamical” thinking that most Americans learned from Dobzhansky, Mayr, and Sewall Wright, and most English students from Fisher, Haldane, and E.

A Johnsonian Scientist

The lives of scientists, considered as Lives, almost always make dull reading. For one thing, the careers of the famous and the merely ordinary fall into much the same pattern, give or take an honorary degree or two, or (in European countries) an honorific Order. It could hardly be otherwise.

Lucky Jim

On May 30, 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick published in Nature a correct interpretation of the crystalline structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. It was a great discovery, one which went far beyond merely spelling out the spatial design of a large, complicated, and important molecule. It explained how that …