Annal: 1998 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1998.


Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce

Douglas Starr

Essence and emblem of life—feared, revered, mythologized, and used in magic and medicine from earliest times—human blood is now the center of a huge, secretive, and often dangerous worldwide commerce. It is a commerce whose impact upon humanity rivals that of any other business—millions of lives have been saved by blood and its various derivatives, and tens of thousands of lives have been lost. Douglas Starr tells how this came to be, in a sweeping history that ranges through the centuries.

With the dawn of science, blood came to be seen as a component of human anatomy, capable of being isolated, studied, used. Starr describes the first documented transfusion: In the seventeenth century, one of Louis XIV’s court physicians transfers the blood of a calf into a madman to “cure” him. At the turn of the twentieth century a young researcher in Vienna identifies the basic blood groups, taking the first step toward successful transfusion. Then a New York doctor finds a way to stop blood from…[more]

Book:The Baltimore Case

The Baltimore Case: A Trial of Politics, Science, and Character

Daniel J. Kevles

The most significant clash of science and principle in our time—a dramatic witch hunt played out in the scientific arena.

David Baltimore won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1975, at the age of thirty-seven. A leading researcher and respected public figure, Baltimore rose steadily through the ranks of the scientific community; in 1990, he was named president of world-renowned Rockefeller University. Less than a year and a half later, Baltimore was forced to resign amid public allegations of fraud.

Daniel Kevles’s penetrating investigation of what became known as the Baltimore case reveals a scientific inquisition in which Baltimore and Thereza Imanishi-Kari, former colleagues at MIT, were unjustly accused and vilified in the name of scientific integrity and public trust. While never accused of wrongdoing himself, Baltimore had staunchly defended the work and integrity…[more]

Book:Mendel's Dwarf

Mendel's Dwarf

Simon Mawer

Hailed by the New Yorker as “furious, tender, and wittily erudite,” Mendel’s Dwarf is a novel that explores the brave new world of genetic science and the depths of the human heart.

Like his great, great uncle, the early geneticist Gregor Mendel, Dr. Benedict Lambert is struggling to unlock the secrets of heredity. But Benedict’s mission is particularly urgent and particularly personal, for he is afflicted with achondroplasia—he’s a dwarf. He’s also a man desperate for love. And when he finds it in the form of Jean—simple and shy—he stumbles upon an opportunity to correct the injustice of his own capricious genes. As intelligent as it is entertaining, this witty and surprisingly erotic novel reveals the beauty and drama of scientific inquiry as it informs us of the simple passions against which even the most brilliant mind is rendered powerless.

Book:Phantoms in the Brain

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

V.S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. His bold insights about the brain are matched only by the stunning simplicity of his experiments—using such low-tech tools as cotton swabs, glasses of water and dime-store mirrors. In Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Ramachandran recounts how his work with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders has shed new light on the deep architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image, why we laugh or become depressed, why we may believe in God, how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream, perhaps even why we’re so clever at philosophy, music and art.

Some of his most notable cases: A woman paralyzed on the left side of her body who believes she is lifting a tray of drinks…[more]

Book:Taking Wing

Taking Wing: Archaeopteryx and the Evolution of Bird Flight

Pat Shipman

In 1861, just a few years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, a scientist named Hermann von Meyer made an amazing discovery. Hidden in the Bavarian region of Germany was a fossil skeleton so exquisitely preserved that its wings and feathers were as obvious as its reptilian jaws and tail. This transitional creature offered tangible proof of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Hailed as the First Bird, Archaeopteryx has remained the subject of heated debates for the last 140 years. Are birds actually living dinosaurs? Where does the fossil record really lead? Did flight originate from the “ground up” or “trees down”? Pat Shipman traces the age-old human desire to soar above the earth and to understand what has come before us. Taking Wing is science as adventure story, told with all the drama by which scientific understanding unfolds.

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