Thursday, May 14, 2009

What is Philip Ball reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Philip Ball, author of several books on aspects of science and its interactions with other aspects of culture including Universe of Stone: Chartres Cathedral and the Triumph of the Medieval Mind and The Sun and Moon Corrupted (a novel).

His entry begins:
I’m not sure if this makes it a good or bad time to be asking what I’m reading: I am currently one of the judges for the Royal Society Science Book Prize (formerly the Aventis Prize), which means that the honest answer to the question is ‘too damned much’. Six boxes too much. But of course there are some pleasurable things among them, though I’m scarcely at liberty yet to say what those are.

Aside from all that, I have recently finished Simon Winchester’s biography of Joseph Needham, The Man Who Loved China (HarperCollins). It is extremely good. I’m embarrassed to say that, although Winchester has seemingly always been well reviewed, I’d not read anything of his before. But on the strength of this I can see why he is so highly regarded. Needham, the biochemist-turned-Sinologist who introduced the West to the history of Chinese science, had the kind of life that cried out for a biography, but Winchester doesn’t put a foot wrong, making effective use of his strong knowledge of China and providing a reliably balanced view of Needham’s successes and failures.

This encouraged me to indulge my Sinophile side by reading...[read on]
Philip Ball is a freelance science writer and a Consultant Editor for Nature. He worked as an editor for physical sciences at Nature for over ten years, where his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.

Ball is the author of several popular books on science, including works on the nature of water, pattern formation in the natural world, color in art, and the science of social and political philosophy. He has written widely on the interactions between art and science, and has delivered lectures to scientific and general audiences at venues ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) to the NASA Ames Research Center and the London School of Economics.

Learn more about Philip Ball and his work at his website and blog.

Writers Read: Philip Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue