Cover image for The threat and the glory : reflections on science and scientists
The threat and the glory : reflections on science and scientists
Medawar, P. B. (Peter Brian), 1915-1987.
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : HarperCollins, [1990]

Physical Description:
xix, 291 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Cornelia & Michael Bessie book."
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Q175 .M435 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Originally published in Great Britain in 1959, this is the first US edition of a collection of essays by the late Nobel Prize-winning (1960, for work in immunology) biologist that range over genetics, evolution, philosophy, creativity, scientific fraud, and attitudes toward death. With a foreword by Lewis Thomas and an introduction by David Pyke. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Author Notes

Peter Medawar was born as a British citizen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His mother was British and his father was Lebanese. He graduated from Oxford University in 1939 with a degree in zoology. Medawar taught at the University of Birmingham, England, and University College, London, before becoming the director of the National Institute for Medical Research in Great Britain. He then became head of the division of surgical science at the Clinical Research Centre, as well as professor of experimental medicine at the Royal Institution. A co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine (with Macfarlane Burnet) in 1960, Medawar focused his research mainly on tissue compatibility and the immune system. Although known as a scholar, administrator, and one of the world's great immunologists, he is equally famous for his popularizations of science.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A posthumous collection of essays, lectures, and book reviews, this volume brings together short expressions of the curiosity and wisdom that won so many admirers for Medawar during his lifetime. A Nobel laureate with rare gifts as a writer, Medawar illuminates not only the findings of modern biologists, but also the very nature of scientific discovery. A number of the pieces effectively challenge the notion that mere collection of facts will uncover natural laws; rather, Medawar argues that scientific breakthroughs come in flashes of imaginative insight, mysterious and not altogether unlike the inspiration of poets and artists. In the longest work here--the Reith Lectures of 1959--Medawar anticipates "the future of man" with remarkable timeliness, outlining many of the very issues ethicists now struggle with in deploying new genetic technology. Some unevenness and repetition are inevitable in a work of this sort, but readers trying to understand the cultural significance of science will welcome its publication. To be indexed. --Bryce Christensen

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nobel Prize-winning biologist Medawar was not only a brilliant researcher, but an excellent prose stylist who wielded extraordinary explanatory powers. This collection of essays, spanning more than 30 years, ranges over topics from the philosophy of science to the question of a possible decline in the average human intelligence, to the importance of pure research, to ``death with dignity'' hype. Medawar, who survived two strokes, strongly rejects the notion of ``death with dignity.'' He wrote: ``There is no more deep-seated biological instinct than that which expresses itself as a firm grasp upon life; there is more dignity, as there is more humanity, in fighting for life than in a passive abdication from our hardly won and most deeply prized possession.'' He died of a final series of strokes in 1987. Readers who enjoyed his The Limits of Science and Aristotle to Zoos will want to add this volume to their collections. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The late Peter Medawar shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1960 for his discovery of acquired immunological tolerance, which cleared the way for organ transplants. He also was a graceful and philosophical writer. This is a collection of 23 of his essays, speeches, and book reviews, many never published in book form. The core is a set of six provocative BBC lectures on ``The Future of Man,'' covering genetics, education, birth control, and other factors that influence our species. Equally stimulating are essays offering insights on such questions as why more male babies then female babies are born in wartime, why smaller families tend to have smarter children, and even why the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica could well have omitted an illustration of a giraffe: ``I stake my reputation that no one who knows what a giraffe looks like found out by referring to an encyclopedia.'' Good reading about tough subjects for informed lay readers. For more on Medawar, see wife Jean Medawar's A Very Decided Preference: Life with Peter Medawar ( LJ 6/1/90).--Ed. --Natalie Kupferberg, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.