- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (4 May 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375727140
- ISBN-13: 978-0375727146
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,62,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science Paperback – 4 May 2010
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“Aspiring Nobel laureates, pay attention. The road to the prize is laid out for you here. A book to be highlighted and handed down.”
“Insightful, useful and on target about science, competition, leadership, teaching and academic success. . . . Watson remains one of the most fascinating scientists of our time, as iconic in some respects as is the double helix.”
“Entertaining. . . . Watson passes on what he can to young scientists coming up and to the rest of us as well.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Watson is both a scientific genius and a larger-than-life personality. . . . If you want to learn how science gets done in the real world . . . Watson makes for a wonderful guide.”
—The Boston Globe
“Vintage Watson: brash, bumptious, brilliant—and never boring.”
“Watson proves as engaging as ever.”
“Entertaining and historically revealing.”
About the Author
James D. Watson was director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York from 1968 to 1993 and is now its chancellor emeritus. He was the first director of the National Center for Human Genome Research of the National Institutes of Health from 1989 to 1992. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, he has received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society and is a Knight of the British Empire (KBE). He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and, with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.See all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Nevertheless this book was enjoyable to read, and as a biologist I was very thrilled to find here so many of legendary molecular biologists and cancer researchers, and discover some interesting details about discoveries in phage biology, DNA structure, protein synthesis and tumor virology.
So in the end I would recommend this book only to biologists or people with a deep interest in our science.
Dr. James Dewey Watson, 1962 Nobelist with F. Crick and M. Wilkins for discovery of the Double Helix DNA structure, is now an octogenarian who's authored eight widely-read and acclaimed books whose prose goes from A to Z & at 1 to 60 mph in contemplation's of sophisticated molecular biology using scientific jargon, OR as one that mirrors, chronologically, an attentive preoccupation in disclosing personal introspective revelations of one's musings on people and events that he, seemingly, evaluates critically and unceasingly in acute terms of being good, bad or even ugly. His cast of formidable characters includes more than 88 notables, most world-renowned scientists or ranking scholars, but no less importantly emphsized are his characterizations of various teaching and research centers or facilities, living quarters or residences in which he lived, taught, visited or studied at.
This Chronicle is thoughtfully divided into 15 chapters, each conclude with enumeration of a half-dozen learned manners or lessons beginning in childhood until the present time terminating with the year 2006 resignation of Harvard's 27th president, Larry Summers, in favor of Drew Gilpin Faust. The book is unsettling, revealing some censuring and condemnations emanating from his intensely preoccupied quest for scientific discoveries at expense of acquiring and thus a void in balance of societal skills, being virtually incapable, thereby, of "small talk" and appreciably introverted and ego-centric, but none-the-less an acclaimed research biologist of first magnitude.
His personal evaluation of Larry Summers's flaws (Harvard's youngest to matriculate) includes a conjecture of possessing Asperger's syndrome variant and speculating a 5 to 10 point IQ drop, an age-adjustment, in wunderkind Summers' intellect, musing that being genetically based Summers should find some sympathy from the furor triggered by his 'women-and science' firestorm that preceded his resignation and must be viewed as 'divinatory' in light of the 'race-IQ-diversity' fury Watson himself precipitated while touring the UK in October 2007 touting this book whose title, is itself, enigmatic - readable either as 'do not bore people' or 'avoid people who may bore you'.
It is comforting to read and know Dr. Watson is happily married to Liz (Lewis), a Columbia University graduate, and that they have two sons to keep them busy; Watson knows full-well that avant garde research is for the young & restless so he ought bask in glories past.
The book is an important read, for despite the furor which led to Watson's step down as Chancellor of CSHL, he is one of our important scientists who was well aware of treacheries in inciting anger when political correctness must take precedence over anything else, but has at certain ages and/or for diverse reasons perhaps, some lessons or manners do get lost and one becomes vulnerable and thusly must either seek or be provided protection by a murder of crows, publicists or peers or be hung out to wither as forgiveness is not always on the table. Unfortunately, there is not enough money in the world to conduct any further testing of IQ betwist racial groups, representing perhaps that unique or singular study which may not be conducted because the non-sicentists, i.e. society, will not license it.
This reviewer, a Harvard graduate, has heard Watson speak, has read his many books and wishes him success with his books and many years to fully indulge in his family life, including catching up with that small talk, something he denied himself in the past. He, like McArthur, is/was a good soldier but not one who will fade away.
The commentary on university structure and politics remains relevant today, and the homilies summarized at the end of each chapter are pithy and accurate, although a bit annoyingly pedantic, as is the wont of Harvard profs (excepting my seismologist friends, of course).
The references to women were confusing, at best. There are constant references to women to whom he is attracted, with the uniform theme that he chased them and was rejected. Not exactly the role women in science are hoping for, and I doubt the storyline was so simple in reality.
On the subject of his research, the author tried to make the genetics accessible, but he mostly confused me through a combination of arcane detail and lack of interest. I generally wound up skimming the paragraphs about races to research results, but which are less than a quarter of the narrative, and not essential to the tale.
So I'd summarize the book as somewhat uneven - overall a very good and unique read. The closest comparison for me is Feynman's books. "Boring" is less urbane and amusing but a deeper picture into the reality of a very successful scientist.