Showing 101 - 110 of 201 annotations tagged with the keyword "Science"

Father and Son

Gosse, Edmund

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Victorian critic and poet Edmund Gosse was the child of respected zoologist Philip Gosse, a minister within the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist evangelical sect. This memoir of Gosse’s childhood and young adulthood details his upbringing by parents whose faith and literal approach to Scripture directed all their domestic practices.

It details the older Gosse’s agony as he struggles to reconcile his scientific vocation with his religious faith in the face of the hefty challenges posed by Chambers, Lyell and Darwin’s mid-century hypotheses about the age of the earth and the diversity of its species.

Edmund’s own agony as he realizes his inability to fulfill his parents’ expectations for him in terms of religious vocation is another significant thread. While "father and son" is the primary relationship explored, the early parts of the memoir describe Emily Gosse’s influence on her son, particularly during her illness and death from breast cancer.

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The Duel

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A group of ex-Muscovites are living in the hot and humid Caucasus. Among them are Laevsky, Nadyezhda Fyodorovna, Von Koren, Samoylenko, and a deacon. Laevsky and Nadyezhda are lovers. They came to the town to flee Nadyezhda’s husband and to live together in their own home. Instead, they remain in rented rooms. Laevsky drinks, gambles, and blankly performs the few tasks necessary in his government job. He spends much of his time figuring out how to get away from Nadyezhda, whom he has grown to hate. Nadyezhda herself is bored and has affairs.

Von Koren is a rigid marine scientist who deplores Laevsky for his indecision and apathetic philosophy. Von Koren believes that creatures like Laevsky who do no good should be killed, because natural selection ought to guide ethical decisions. He tries to act out his plan when the two duel, but is surprised by the Deacon and misses his shot. Laevsky’s shock at his close call drives him back to Nadyezhda.

Samoylenko is a physician and tries to be a peacemaker, but ultimately gets walked on. The Deacon dreams passively about glory in the Church or even in a remote village, but does little except laugh at his neighbors. The story is composed of a series of visits and conversations among the characters.

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An Enemy of the People

Ibsen, Henrik

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a public-minded doctor in a small town famous for its public baths, discovers that the water supply for the baths is contaminated and has probably been the cause of some illness among the tourists who are the town's economic lifeblood. In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards, sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted citizenry. His own principled idealism exacerbates the conflict. The well-meaning doctor is publicly labeled an enemy of the people, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he was trying to save.

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The Prairie

Cooper, James Fenimore

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the last of Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales, in which his hero, Natty Bumpo, is on the frontier as an old man living and reliving his experiences in the developing West. As the reader follows Leatherstocking in his final venture, he/she repeatedly encounters an interesting character, Obed Bat (or Battius, as he is sometimes called because of his propensity for imposing Latinate terms on everything he sees).

Dr. Bat claims to be a medical practitioner who has chosen to study the natural world, the flora and fauna of the prairie. In a novel that is replete with unintentional comedy, Dr. Bat invites apparent, intentional and pointed ridicule. He chronically mistakes his own donkey for new species of wild animal; his vapid attempts at providing any kind of serious medical advice to the various travelers he encounters remind the reader of the tenuous position of the medical practitioner in the early to mid nineteenth century.

Although this adventure is the last trip for Natty, Dr. Bat’s presence is a major portion of the old-fashioned charm of Cooper’s novels. The unlikely collection of characters in this novel keep meeting, even though they are independently trekking across the vast land between the Mississippi and the Platte. There are, of course, buffalo and Sioux--friendly and otherwise--who must be tamed or overcome.

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Kinsey

Linney, Laura; Condon, Bill; Neeson, Liam

Last Updated: Apr-26-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This film tells the story of Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), the scientist who famously changed his focus in mid-career from the study of gall wasps to the study of human sexuality and through his publications on male and female sexuality (1948, 1953) revolutionized the way we think and talk about sex. Kinsey entered adult life with the classic Boy Scout's view of sex that it was best not to think about it. (He collected a million gall wasps instead.) But under the influence of one of his students, Clara McMillen (Laura Linney), who later became his wife, and listening to the questions some students were asking about sex, he decided to teach a course at Indiana University on human sexuality. "Sexual morality needs to be reformed," he proclaims, and "science will show the way."

He begins doing statistical research on individual sexual behavior, training his interviewers to be open and neutral as they encounter a very wide variety of behaviors. He also encourages them to experiment sexually among themselves, and later even to participate in sexual encounters filmed for research purposes. Naturally, not everyone accepts this readily, and there are problems between Alfred and Clara, among the research assistants, and eventually between the whole project and Indiana University and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Rockefeller withdraws its support, complaining that Kinsey is preaching in public, and Clara tearfully complains that some social restraints are needed to keep people from hurting each other. The assistants struggle with the ties between sex, which is part of the experiment, and love, which is not. Kinsey continues striving, but with much reduced means. The film ends with video clips of interview subjects speaking strongly about the benefits that Kinsey's revolution has brought to them, one woman concluding: "You saved my life, sir!"

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Summary:

Born in 1728 the tenth child in a struggling Scottish farm family, John Hunter was a wayward and unteachable child who spent most of his time outdoors. At the age of 20, with no prospects and having lost his father and 6 siblings, he wrote for help to his older brother William, who was practicing midwifery in London and had just opened England's first anatomy school, one featuring the revolutionary opportunity for students to dissect their own cadavers.

John rode the 400 miles to London on horseback, apprenticed with great success under William, learned dissection, then surgery, and went on to become a supremely gifted anatomist and surgeon, one whose brilliant and tireless experimentation broke with ancient and outmoded medical traditions and established the foundation for modern science-based surgery. (When John arrived in London, the city's Company of Barber-Surgeons had only just dissolved to allow surgeons to organize themselves independently of barbers.)

One of his most important activities in working for his brother--and which continued when he made his own way--was the procuring of cadavers, which because of the customs of the time involved him intimately in the grisly business of grave-robbing.

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Summary:

Shannon Moffett, a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, became fascinated with the brain during her anatomy and neurobiology courses. She set off across the country to interview people--scientists, doctors, patients, ethicists, and religious leaders--who devote their careers trying to understand the brain and cognition. With infectious enthusiasm and energy, Moffett brings the reader to meet these dedicated people, their work, their theories and their lives.

The book contains eight chapters and hence eight mini-biographies: 1) neurosurgeon Roberta Glick, 2) cognitive neuroscientist and brain imagist John Gabrieli, 3) Francis Crick (of DNA double helix fame) and Christof Koch--scientists studying consciousness, 4) sleep researcher Robert Stickgold, 5) Judy Castelli who has dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), 6) philosopher Daniel Dennett, 7) neuroethicist Judy Illes, and 8) Zen monk Norman Fischer.

Separating the chapters are "interludes" that map neural and brain development from conception to death. The book has a reference list for each chapter and a complete index, as well as a web resource (www.shannonmoffett.com) to which the reader is directed for graphics.

The writing is compelling, direct, fresh and insightful. For example, in "Touching the Brain," we follow the exhausting lifestyle of an academic neurosurgeon who works at Cook County Hospital in Chicago as she performs surgery, teaches, attends services at a temple, drives her car, takes care of her family including two young children, rounds on patients, hosts a potluck dinner, and simultaneously discusses her reading, travel and spirituality.

Moffett aptly describes Glick with her "waist-length red hair, ... beaten-metal earrings dangling almost to her shoulders and a saffron batik dress" as someone you'd "expect to find reading storybooks to kindergartners in a public library" (8). In fact, it is Moffett's eye for accessible detail that makes not only the people, but also neuroscience come alive. Artfully woven into the text are lessons on the history of brain research and current understanding (and questions) about the brain, its meaning and function.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography begins on April 20, 1995 when the ashes of Marie and Pierre Curie were transferred from their graves in a Paris suburb and re-interred in the Pantheon, thereby placing the Curies among the "immortals" of France. Thus, Marie became the first (and so far the only) woman to be honored in this way. Goldsmith's biography is a straightforward and well-written narrative that eschews hagiography, wordiness, and psychological interpretations.

The story of Marie Curie (1867-1934) is well known. Born into an intellectual but impoverished Polish family, she struggled to obtain a scientific education, first in Poland and then at the Sorbonne in Paris. While a graduate student, she met and married the young chemist Pierre Curie. Together, with essentially no funding and dismal laboratory space, they discovered and characterized radioactivity. Later, on her own Marie discovered and isolated two new elements, polonium and radium. Subsequently Marie and Pierre created the Curie Institute, where Marie was in the forefront in envisioning medical applications of radioactivity and radium.

The story is especially powerful in its depiction of bias against women in science. Marie had to fight for many years to obtain a faculty position at the Sorbonne (unheard of for a woman), or even space to conduct her experiments. When the Nobel Committee awarded its 1903 Prize in Physics, Pierre had to fight to have his wife included in the citation, even though the bulk of the brains and energy behind the discovery of radioactivity were clearly Marie's. Marie was later vindicated when she won her second (and solo) Nobel Prize in 1911 for the discovery of radium.

Obsessive Genius doesn't shy away from Marie Curie's recurrent clinical depressions, which began during her adolescence, nor from her obsessive, hard-driving personality. The book presents an even-handed picture of repeated conflict between her love of her husband and children (one of whom, Irene Joliet-Curie, in 1935 became the second woman scientist ever to win the Nobel Prize); and her passion for her work.

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Arrowsmith

Lewis, Sinclair

Last Updated: Dec-19-2005

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Martin Arrowsmith is from a tiny mid-western town. He goes to college and then to medical school in the largest town in the state. He begins to worship Gottlieb, Professor of Bacteriology, one of the few professors who is devoted to pure science instead of lucrative practice. Martin becomes Gottlieb’s assistant and annoys his professors and friends by constantly talking about methodology. He is engaged to Madeline, a rather dull graduate student in English. When he meets Leora, a nurse, he breaks his engagement to Madeline. Martin grows disenchanted with his career, leaves school, and wanders around the midwest. Finally, he marries Leora and returns to school. Now, however, he becomes a disciple of the Dean, Silva, whose science is much less precise and who is devoted to making people comfortable at all costs.

Martin sets up practice after graduation in Leora’s home town. The Swedish and German farmers find him invasive and unwilling to cater to their small-town expectations. When Martin misdiagnoses a case of smallpox, he is forced to leave town. He has by then found a new hero, Gustave Sondelius, who fights plagues abroad and returns to America to lecture. Sondelius finds him a job in a larger town as an assistant to Dr. Almus Pickerbaugh, Director of Public Health. Pickerbaugh writes popular poems against sidewalk spitting and alcohol but does little else. The town loves him. He becomes a senator and Martin takes over the department. He quickly makes enemies of the very people Sondelius pleased. He also returns to research. Between annoying the upper crust with his brusqueness and annoying the farmers by closing their diseased dairies, he is soon drummed out of town.

He is then hired as a pathologist at the Rouncefield Clinic, where he does meaningless, repetitive work. His old mentor, Gottlieb, saves him by getting him a position at the McGurk Institute in New York. The Institute is very rich and gives scientists a chance to work without the interruption of patients or a need for practical application. Martin returns to Gottlieb’s principles and discovers a cure for bubonic plague. The Institute, which is not free from economic interests, sends him off to the tropical island of St. Hubert to test his material and save the population.

Martin is determined to conduct a controlled trial. When his wife and Sondelius both die of the plague, however, he injects everyone, saves the island, and returns to New York. Gottlieb has dementia and can neither blame nor forgive Martin for his lack of scientific aplomb. Martin marries an heiress and briefly lives the rich life he always dreamed of, but finds that his new wife will not let him work. Finally, he joins a friend who has built a laboratory in Vermont and happily returns to research.

 

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The Beekeeper's Pupil

George, Sara

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The son of a poor widow, Fran├žois Burnens is overwhelmed with his good fortune when he is hired to assist the gentleman-scientist, Fran├žois Huber. Blind since the age of 19, Huber studies bees, helped by his wife in his observations at their Geneva home. Now expecting their second child, the couple realizes that she must concentrate on the family. Through Burnens's diary, from 1785 to 1794, the young man grows as a scientist, a writer, and a human being. Charles Bonnet and other scientists visit in person or in citation.

The domestic drama of the home plays against a backdrop of the menacing turbulence in nearby France. Burnens' admiration, respect and pity for Huber keeps him in the modestly-paid employ for nine long years. But his fascination with an artistically talented young woman shows him that his situation as a valued servant must come to an end.

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