An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins

An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist

byRichard Dawkins

Kobo ebook | September 24, 2013

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With the 2006 publication of The God Delusion, the name Richard Dawkins became a byword for ruthless skepticism and "brilliant, impassioned, articulate, impolite" debate (San Francisco Chronicle). his first memoir offers a more personal view.

His first book, The Selfish Gene, caused a seismic shift in the study of biology by proffering the gene-centered view of evolution. It was also in this book that Dawkins coined the term meme, a unit of cultural evolution, which has itself become a mainstay in contemporary culture.

In An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. He paints a vivid picture of his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa, peppered with sketches of his colorful ancestors, charming parents, and the peculiarities of colonial life right after World War II. At boarding school, despite a near-religious encounter with an Elvis record, he began his career as a skeptic by refusing to kneel for prayer in chapel. Despite some inspired teaching throughout primary and secondary school, it was only when he got to Oxford that his intellectual curiosity took full flight.

Arriving at Oxford in 1959, when undergraduates "left Elvis behind" for Bach or the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dawkins began to study zoology and was introduced to some of the university's legendary mentors as well as its tutorial system. It's to this unique educational system that Dawkins credits his awakening, as it invited young people to become scholars by encouraging them to pose rigorous questions and scour the library for the latest research rather than textbook "teaching to" any kind of test. His career as a fellow and lecturer at Oxford took an unexpected turn when, in 1973, a serious strike in Britain caused prolonged electricity cuts, and he was forced to pause his computer-based research. Provoked by the then widespread misunderstanding of natural selection known as "group selection" and inspired by the work of William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and John Maynard Smith, he began to write a book he called, jokingly, "my bestseller." It was, of course, The Selfish Gene.

Here, for the first time, is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist, and the story of how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.

Title:An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a ScientistFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:September 24, 2013Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0062225812

ISBN - 13:9780062225818

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from This is the first of a two part memoir that traces Dawkin's development as a child in Africa, his journey to England and his education at Oxford and culminates with the publication of 'The Selfish Gene' in 1976. Although subtitled, 'The Making of a Scientist', Dawkins gives a self-deprecating narrative that highlights the skills of his comrades and teachers while diminishing his own by comparison. He places chance as the arbiter of much of our fates and describes his own development as a student and a scientist and his success with 'The Selfish Gene' as very reliant on causal strings of events. If our mammalian ancestor had not been helped by the sneeze of a dinosaur about to devour it... (you get the idea). An interesting book but I'm looking forward to the second and a description of his development of as an atheist with attitude.
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An appetite for wonder Like many memoirists, Richard Dawkins devotes almost half of this memoir to his childhood, which was a remarkably rich and interesting period, spent largely in what is now Malawi. He describes it all in loving detail, emphasizing all that was good about it, tending to gloss over details such as the discomforts of boarding school for small boys.He was fortunate also in his choice of parents.  His intellect and his original mind did not come to full fruition until he entered Baliol College, Oxford. In retrospect he was perhaps fortunate to be admitted to that illustrious college. His academic track record doesn't sound very impressive until he reached Oxford and had the great good fortune to be mentored by outstanding scholars with original, creative minds. Aspiring scientists with ambition to excel and to rise to the top will find useful advice and wise council in Dawkins' account of how he did it.  He writes well too, which helps.  I'll be recommending this book to ambitious scholars with academic aspirations. 
Date published: 2013-11-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Selfish Author In purchasing this book, I was hoping to gain some insight into Dawkins' pathway to humanism a.k.a. neo-Darwinism. I was left feeling a bit cheated because the book is in actually two volumes: birth to the age of 35 and the yet to be published sequel ( another two years wait.) The most enjoyable sections are of Dawkins' early life in Africa and his schooling in the U.K. Things fall apart after he marries and begins teaching in California. The rest is scientific dribble which left me (and perhaps other readers) completely bored. (One needs a background in statistics and computer science to understand and appreciate Dawkins' latter chapters.) There is a void in the detail of his first marriage, other than for scholarly pursuits. In summary, I found the first part of the book quite interesting but became quickly lost in the scientific jargon of the latter half of the book.
Date published: 2013-10-14