Annal: 2000 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Science & Technology

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2000.

Book:The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine

The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine

James Le Fanu

This penetrating study of medicine in our times addresses one of its most baffling paradoxes as it explores the widening gulf between achievement and advancement. For while the medical accomplishments of the postwar years stand at the front ranks of human endeavor, advances in medicine have recently slowed to a near halt. In the three decades after the war, medicine won the wars against polio and diphtheria. It developed treatments to control the progress of Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia. It made realities of open-heart surgery, organ transplants, test-tube babies. For thirty years clinical science, medical technology, and pharmaceutical innovation thrived. And then, abruptly, optimism faded. Social theories of medicine and the new genetics hobbled research. The apparently unstoppable forward march of modern medicine stopped.

This judicious volume compellingly illustrates both the power of the scientific method in pushing forward the boundaries of medical knowledge and the constraints posed on it by human vanities and the mysteries of biology.

Book:E = mc2

E = mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

David Bodanis

“This is not a physics book. It is a history of where the equation [E=mc2] came from and how it has changed the world. After a short chapter on the equation’s birth, Bodanis presents its five symbolic ancestors in sequence, each with its own chapter and each with rich human stories of achievement and failure, encouragement and duplicity, love and rivalry, politics and revenge. Readers meet not only famous scientists at their best and worst but also such famous and infamous characters as Voltaire and Marat…Bodanis includes detailed, lively and fascinating back matter…His acknowledgements end, ‘I loved writing this book.’ It shows.” (The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

E=mc2, focusing on the 1905 theory of special relativity, is just what its subtitle says it is: a biography of the world’s most famous equation, and it succeeds beautifully. For the first time, I really feel that I understand…[more]

Book:Einstein in Love

Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance

Dennis Overbye

An acclaimed science writer’s insightful and revelatory biography of young Einstein—teenager in love, draft dodger, bohemian, poet, and scientist—drawing upon many unpublished letters and years of research

During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the world stood on the verge of upheaval as all the familiar political, cultural, and scientific truths were challenged by new discoveries and philosophies. It was a period when young Albert Einstein was in love—with physics and the secret order of the universe; with his brilliant, tormented first wife, Mileva; and with a series of comely young women who were distractions from his gradually failing marriage. While that marriage worked, though, the Einsteins were a truly modern couple, a couple who had relativity and quantum mysticism as their pillow talk, a couple who were as often colleagues as they were fierce adversaries. …[more]

Book:Genome

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Matt Ridley

The human genome, the complete set of genes housed in twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, is nothing less than an autobiography of our species. Spelled out in a billion three-letter words using the four-letter alphabet of DNA, the genome has been edited, abridged, altered and added to as it has been handed down, generation to generation, over more than three billion years. With the first draft of the human genome due to be published in 2000, we, this lucky generation, are the first beings who are able to read this extraordinary book and to gain hitherto unimaginable insights into what it means to be alive, to be human, to be conscious or to be ill.

By picking one newly discovered gene from each of the twenty-three human chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. He finds genes that…[more]

Book:A Rum Affair

A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud

Karl Sabbagh

The mysterious Isle of Rum is one of the Inner Hebrides situated off the west coast of Scotland. Rugged and mountainous, its brooding beauty and natural diversity attracted an eminent British botanist, John Heslop Harrison of Newcastle University, who claimed to have discovered several species of rare plants there that had never been observed within five hundred miles of the island. These discoveries helped him make his mark as one of Britain’s outstanding scientists. But in A Rum Affair, Karl Sabbagh begins to question those discoveries, after stumbling onto a veiled reference in an obituary of amateur botanist John Raven, Heslop Harrison’s accuser, and he soon finds himself pursuing a fifty-year-old open secret: Were the plants indigenous? If not, how did they get there? And what was Heslop Harrison’s motive? Sabbagh also explores the oddly congenial relationship between accuser and accused, detailing Raven’s unusual attempts to keep his discoveries secret. Like a skillful whodunit, A Rum Affair savors each of its surprising revelations of hubris and chicanery as its tale unfolds among the exotic flora and fauna of Rum.

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