day existence, and their work is often com- pared unfavourably ... who is not justa cricket writer, has a passion ... cricketers ever, "the midsummer night's dream of ...
Perspiration, inspiration A K Banerjee Science has often been the target of misconceived intellectual hostility. Scientists have been criticised for being cold, calculated, and aloof from the humdrum activities of everyday existence, and their work is often compared unfavourably with that of their colleagues in the humanities. In his essay "The two conceptions of science" the late Sir Peter Medawar argued against these criticisms by suggesting that science, like the arts, is an imaginative and exploratory activity and that modes of thinking in the two spheres of creative activity are probably very similar. A Passion for Science certainly lends support to Sir Peter's opinion. A collection of interviews (originally conducted for Radio 3) with some of the most widely acclaimed scientists of our time, the book allows us to gain insight into how scientific minds work and the strange and almost serendipitous process of scientific discovery. The first section features prominent mathematicians and physicists. Abdus Salam, who shared the 1979 Nobel prize for physics for his unification theory of matter, went into physics purely by chance having initially planned a career in the civil service. Salam, who is a deeply religious man, suggests that the unity implied by religious thought may have played a part in formulating his unification theory. In the second section molecular biologists are placed under scrutiny. Professor Dorothy
Hodgkin, who won the Nobel prize in medicine in 1964 for her work on the structure of vitamin B12, enthuses about her early interest in chemistry as a child. Francis Crick, on the other hand, seems to have been a late developer and did not start serious research till his 30s. Within two years, however, he had jointly made one of the most important discoveries of the century-namely, the double helical structure of DNA. Crick says that chance played a major part in the discovery. Sidney Brenner, the current director of the laboratory of molecular biology at Cambridge, emphasises the importance of persisting with ideas in spite of constant opposition. This led to his discovery of messenger RNA in addition to his work on the genetic code. Brenner hates writing papers and thinks that ifCrick had not forced him to write up his results he would probably not have written a single paper in his life. In contrast, Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard biologist, geologist, scientific historian, linguist, and essayist, says that he writes not to educate others but only to educate himself; he maintains that the motive is essentially a selfish one. For the most part scientific discovery is a routine affair and is fraught with more failures than successes. Most discoveries occur by chance, but resilience and determination seem to be important qualities in successful scientists, as they come across in
o ~~~ 00 0 U
A source ofpassion?
this entertaining and informative volume. Reading it is an inspiring experience. A Passion for Science. L Wolpert, A Richards. (Pp216; figs; £15.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-19-854213-5.
Worlds apart Pradip K Datta What does a consultant surgeon do in theatre while his boys are operating? I have found the perfect answer-read Alan Ross's Ranji. This masterly account of Ranjitsinhji, the English cricketer and Indian prince, depicts lifestyles that were worlds apart. The author, who is not just a cricket writer, has a passion and a feel for India, the country of his birth, and he settled in Sussex-ideal credentials for such a tome. Ross presents a well researched account of a man whom he describes admirably with a quote: "The prince of a little state but a king of a great game," one of the greatest cricketers ever, "the midsummer night's dream of cricket." The book sets the scene with a history of western India and an interesting account of the young Ranji playing cricket on a ground shared with bullocks and hens-a typical venue where most Indians start their cricket, as I did myself. His later life at Cambridge is described with great insight and fondness. Ranji's achievements with the bat make unforgettable reading-for example, he was the only cricketer to have scored two centuries in a first class match on one dayBMJ
22 OCTOBER 1988
RANJI ALAN ROSS Introduction by Geoffrey Moorhouse
although a unique achievement on Ranji's part it does not say much for the rest of the team's batting. Referred to as one of the "birds of passage" by an MCC president, nevertheless Ranji was selected to play for England, his first test being in the company of the great W G Grace. Ranji's cricket reached such a pinnacle that it was said "the Prince was a greater batsman than the Doctor." Ross gives such an enormous amount of statistics regarding Ranji's batting performance that the book would be an excellent reference text for an aspiring BBC Masternind contestant wishing to choose Ranji as his special subject. Any takers? Ross brings out not just a great cricketer in Ranji but also an all round gentleman of the times who was a good shot, a keen angler, and even an author. Thebook highlights the close association of Ranji with that other great cricketer and not-to-be King of Albania, C B Fry, who was the ghost writer to Ranji's Jubilee Book of Cricket; this is reviewed at some length by Ross. Ranji's contribution to India, described in the second part of the book, was entirely as the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar. Sadly he made 1053