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I've started reading my 'sea saga', Rachel Carson's The Sea Around Us, and it is some of the most graceful, informative writing I've ever run across. And that set me to thinking of other such writing I've enjoyed in the past, by people who were not primarily writers, but scientists of various kinds: Lewis Thomas, William Carlos Williams, Oliver Sacks, Aldo Leopold, Sigurd F. Olson, Stephen Jay Gould, Annie Dillard, and Margaret Wertheim.
(Medical)) Doctor Thomas wrote several volumes of his "Notes of a Biology Watcher", particularly The Lives of a Cell, The Youngest Science, and Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony. I've only read neurologist Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, so far but I hope to borrow Musicophilia from one of my grandkids this summer. The late professor of evolutionary biology and paleontology, Stephen Jay Gould, wrote a shelfful of books (collections of the essays he wrote for Nature magazine) such as The Flamingo's Smile, The Panda's Thumb, Rocks of Ages, and Full House. Two who wrote elegantly about nature are Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac), and Sigurd F. Olson, who expounded "a wilderness theology" is several volumes. I guess Annie Dillard is an 'amateur' naturalist, but the close, respectful eye she brought to her surroundings and the graceful way she set down her observations in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek merit a reader's attention, IMO.
The author of Pythagoras' Trousers is a woman physicist, Margaret Wertheim. Another worth-while book about physics is The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra. Its sub-title is "An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. It's old, but I think it's rather a singular work, dealing with 'Science' and 'Religion' in the same volume, as it does. William Carlos Williams (Complete Collected Poems) pursued a dual career of poet and doctor after his graduation in medicine at age 24 and the publication of his first volume of poetry at age 26.
Last Edited on: 4/27/11 7:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
In the 1920s and 130s, Donald Culross Peattie was considered the the most popular of American nature writers. His classic, which I received through PBS, is
In Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, Barry Lopez writes about light like no other writer. I just shook my head, wondering how anybody could write so clearly.
In The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness and The Tree Where Man Was Born, Peter Matthiessen writes stunning paragraphs about wilderness.
For science writing, Gina Kolata, of the New York Times, is always worth reading. Hey, I just posted Flu. Hint, hint.