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  • The Scientific Temper: An Anthology of Stories on Matters of Science
  • David Topper
The Scientific Temper: An Anthology of Stories on Matters of Science by Anthony R. Michaelis. Universitäts-verlag C. Winter, Heidelberg, Germany, 2001. 598 pp., illus. ISBN: 3-8253-1229-1.

There are some books, usually written by those who have achieved marks of distinction in their lives, that are primarily meant to be read by members of the author's family and kept for posterity. Darwin's short autobiography was originally written to that end, although historians of science have been scouring it (especially the unabridged copy) ever since it was released to the general public. The book under review is of this same genre. Anthony R. Michaelis had a distinguished career as a chemist and especially as editor of the British science magazine Discovery, as a founding editor of the Interdisciplinary Science Review, and as the science correspondent for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph . His was a life immersed in science: after early research in chemistry, he was involved in producing science films, but the core of his life in science centered on his work for the magazine, journal and newspaper. For example, he wrote daily reports on science and technology for the Telegraph and spent 20 years editing the Review .

The format of the book is singular, if not peculiar. Each page constitutes a self-contained essay; only a few times do they continue across the next page or two. The result is a series of rather short stories or anecdotes from Michaelis's life, including tales of numerous trips around the world: to Cape Kennedy (Canaveral), Australia, India, Antarctica and so forth—sometimes with more detail than probably necessary (such as who paid for the flights); information about the gentlemen's club in London to which he belongs; anecdotes on the cars he has owned; an hourly chronicle on the day of his 50th birthday. Hence my first sentence of this review.

This is not to deny that some of the stories are quite informative and interesting, especially his impressions of some famous scientists. Nevertheless a good editor could have helped in highlighting some of the gems in this rather long work. I would add one more thing: the title should have been more specific. There is no way the potential reader could be aware of the idiosyncratic nature of this book. One word added to the subtitle would suffice: "An Anthology of Personal Stories on Matters of Science." [End Page 333]

David Topper
the University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9 Canada. E-mail: <>.