From Publishers Weekly
With his new book, Harman (The Man Who Invented the Chromosome) examines Price, a scientist and author whose promising life ended in self- destruction. Harman didn't set out to write a straightforward biography, but rather a history of Price's lifelong quest to understand evolution and the origins of altruism; along those lines the author includes the life and work of "Orwellian" psychologist B.F. Skinner, J.B.S. Haldane, and "the most distinguished Darwinian since Darwin," Bill Hamilton, who would become a close colleague of Price's. But it's Price's tale that grounds Harman's book. Part One focuses on the man's early life in Minneapolis, his marriage and divorce to Julia Madigan, with whom he had two daughters, and his later life in New York City, where he held countless jobs as he tried to get published. In November 1967 Price moved to London, determined to "crack the problem of altruism," and Part Two picks up there, with his conversion to Christianity, after which he gave away his possessions and dedicated himself to helping London's homeless, until he eventually joined their ranks. In 1975, just after Christmas, he took his own life. Harman has given voice to the professional contributions and personal struggles of a man whose body lies today in an unmarked grave in North London.
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Remarkable... fascinating. (The Big Issue)
Ever since Charles Darwin had published his theory of evolution in 1859, scientists had wondered whether it can explain the existence of altruism. Price wanted to describe mathematically how a genetic disposition to altruism could evolve. As Mr. Harman so vividly describes, Price ultimately became one of the vagabonds he set out to save. (The Economist)
Fascinating.... Important... full of complex and deeply interesting ideas. (Sam Leith - The Spectator)
An intriguing history for serious students of the history of science. (Kirkus Reviews)
Brilliant... A great story. (Brian Appleyard - Literary Review)
[A] rich and vigorous survey of the controversy over altruism and its evolutionary role, stretching from the 19th century to now. (Sunday Times [UK])
I stayed up a good part of the night reading... fascinating! ... Harman proves that the lives of some modern scientists are as ecstatic, tormented and filled with strange visions as those of medieval saints. (Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind)
This book is a stunning tour de force. The puzzle of altruism is revealed as it would be in a thriller, with twists and turns and surprises almost until the end. (Noah Feldman, Bemis Professor of Law, Harvard University)
Uncommonly brilliant and deeply stimulating... almost cinematically satisfying. Harman has a rare gift for bringing ideas and thinkers to life. (Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic)
A terrific book, at once scholarly and impossible to put down. (Peter Godfrey-Smith, professor of philosophy at Harvard University)
A brilliant biography of a brilliant man. A powerful page-turner that vividly renders the obsessive absorption with the poles of cooperation and competition in nature. (Daniel Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History at Yale University)
In this remarkable book, Oren Harman tracks George Price, an awkward, disturbed, and profoundly, almost saintly scientist.... It is an astonishing story at every level, from the destitute wanderings and genial interventions of Price to a revealing account of how modern evolutionary biology took its contemporary form. (Peter Galison, Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and Physics, Harvard University)