Review of An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist, A Memoir – Richard Dawkins

Posted: April 23, 2014 in autobiography, memoir, nonfiction, Review
Tags:

richard dawkins

This is part autobiography and part history of Richard Dawkins progenitors. Various members of previous generations of Dawkins had served the British Empire. Two generations served as foresters. A similar amount of colonial activity was undertaken by his maternal ancestors. The Dawkins also made a habit of attending Balliol College, and having, though not using the first name of Clinton. Dawkins admits his birth name is Clinton Richard Dawkins, and he was born in Kenya because his mother followed her husband there from Nyasaland (Malawi) when Dawkins pere was posted there during World War 2.

Richard Dawkins was not drawn to zoology, as several early incidents of his life indicate. However, he fell into once he arrived at Balliol, having been talked out of reading biochemistry instead. He charts his progression through the British academic world with candour, and shows great respect for the various people who mentored him on the way. Dawkins was not only fascinated by zoology, once he got underway, but by automated data collection and processing. Anecdotes about this take up more space than the discussion about the genesis and publication of his first book, The Selfish Gene. He also explains the development of his gene-centred view of evolution, for which he is famous throughout the wider science of biology.

Dawkins writes with affection, humour and modesty. This is not a boastful work showcasing how great Dawkins is. Nor does he push his atheism. Instead, he explains all the influences on his life, finding inspiration in the dedication of others. At approximately 300pages, it is an easy read, with nicely structured chapters and a collection of photographs showing both early family life and other actors in his story. Because this memoir is not only about him, it’s about his family and his academic friends.

I would recommend this book for those not only wanting to know more about Richard Dawkins, but also about the collegial nature of university research.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.