A carefully written and surprising biography of one of science's unsung heroes.

Biography of W.D. Hamilton (1936–2000), a revolutionary thinker and scientist whose outlier methods and ideas isolated him from the scientific establishment; he would later be vindicated as a brilliant contributor to evolutionary biology.

For all of Darwin's brilliance, his theories were incomplete: Tricky concepts like altruism and kin selection—even Richard Dawkins' "selfish gene"—were left for future generations to unravel. Hamilton, a mathematician and evolutionary biologist, spent his life in passionate pursuit of clues as to why evolution operates to ensure the survival of the genes of an organism and not the survival of the organism itself. By 1964, while still a graduate student, Hamilton had worked out an elegant mathematical solution, but he struggled to get his peers to see its innovation and prescience. Hamilton struggled to conform to institutional practices and persisted in pursuing unpopular truths he felt were paramount to scientific progress. The result is a body of work rich with insight, and since his death, his work has since been hailed as yielding critical insights to theories of animal altruism. Segerstrale (Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond, 2000, etc.) provides a uniquely personal account of Hamilton's adventurous and iconoclastic life, drawing from a rich collection of papers, correspondence, and interviews with family members and colleagues. Her nuanced, linear storytelling reveals a man of complicated genius unusually attuned to the entanglements of science and ethics. Throughout his career, Hamilton traveled across the world, and his experiences with different cultures and creatures had a profound effect on his philosophy. He spent time in the Congo collecting data to support the polio vaccine theory of the origin of AIDS, an issue few others dared broach due to its controversial social and medical implications. The author brings to light the courageous and empathetic character behind the misunderstood and retrospectively appreciated scientist.

A carefully written and surprising biography of one of science's unsung heroes.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-860727-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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