- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (September 24, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307952339
- ISBN-13: 978-0307952332
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.9 x 9.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 99 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #905,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize Hardcover – September 24, 2013
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*Starred Review* Trumpeted in headlines, the story has often been told of how Camus sacrificed his friendship with Sartre by publicly criticizing the Soviet Union. The untold story (the story Carroll here unfolds) is of how Camus won a brilliant new friend—namely, biologist Jacques Monod—through the same political courage. Readers here watch as Camus forcefully denounces the Soviet show trials, massive executions, and labor camps at the same time that Monod is reacting to the Stalinist pseudoscience enshrined in Trofim Lysenko’s wild biological theorizing. But beyond the shared abhorrence for Soviet enormities that initially brings Camus and Monod together, Carroll limns a number of other parallels in their life trajectories. Both profess—and then lose—a youthful faith in communism. Both shoulder major responsibilities in the French Resistance during WWII. Both assume, as the supreme human challenge, the task of affirming creative freedom in an absurd universe. Both win Nobel Prizes for groundbreaking work—Camus in literature, Monod in medicine. Readers will learn a good deal about symbolism in Camus’ fiction and biochemistry in Monod’s molecular biology. But, above all, they will learn about a luminous friendship forged in dark times. A rare chronicle of valiant thinkers fighting political oppression and transcending professional boundaries. --Bryce Christensen
Praise for Sean B. Carroll’s Brave Genius:
“This is, in short, a gripping book throughout, and Carroll deserves all praise for his double portrait of two exemplary heroes of conscience and intellect.”
“Suspenseful…Brave Genius is briskly paced and ambitiously sprawling, offering potted accounts of historical episodes large and small (the fall of France, the 1956 Hungarian crisis, Camus’s famous feud with Jean-Paul Sartre, the discovery of the double helix), along with finer-grained descriptions of Camus’s and Monod’s work. Dr. Carroll has done some impressive archival digging, turning up fresh and often vivid details.”
—New York Times
"Carroll beautifully encapsulates how two men seemingly so far apart in their philosophies and achievements both ended up sharing 'exceptional lives' transformed by 'exceptional events.'"
"Carroll does a masterful job of keeping the many elements together and the story moving….In 1959, C. P. Snow wrote of the “two cultures” — that gulf between science and the humanities. Brave Genius provides an opportunity for those on both sides of the divide to sample a potent mix of genetics, philosophy and literature, forged in the twentieth-century tumult of war and cold war.” —Nature
"[A]n exciting and impressively told tale."
“Their relationship, Carroll finds, not only illuminates the work of both men, but also unlocks the political and philosophical contingencies of a key moment in 20th-century thought…Carroll, an important biologist with true storytelling talents, recounts the tale beautifully.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Readers will learn a good deal about symbolism in Camus’ fiction and biochemistry in Monod’s molecular biology. But, above all, they will learn about a luminous friendship forged in dark times. A rare chronicle of valiant thinkers fighting political oppression and transcending professional boundaries.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Carroll deftly weaves science and history together in his account of the lives, accomplishments, and friendship of two exceptional men…Spanning history, science, and philosophy, this dual biographical study of two significant 20th-century figures will appeal to a diverse audience.”
“[S]killfully combining science, biography and history… An important story well-told.”
“Carroll has a winning way with words, and everything he writes about (especially difficult matters of science) sparkles with clarity.”
“A brave, ambitious, unexpected book. Who knew that Sean B. Carroll, a brilliant biologist, could or would write such a work of literary, political, and scientific history? It brings many revelations, offers several heroes, but at its heart is Jacques Monod, emerging as one of the great, complete men of the 20th century.”
—David Quammen, author of Spillover and The Song of the Dodo
“Art and science are two essential components forming the very essence of what makes being human worth being human. Sean Carroll has done a yeoman's job of merging these two vital areas beautifully in this moving and carefully researched history of two great minds and two brave men…It is impossible not to be inspired by their story.”
—Lawrence M. Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing
“A remarkable profile. With deep research and compelling story-telling, Sean Carroll follows these two Nobel-prize winners from the desperate depths of World War II to international fame.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Microcosm
“A tour de force, a gripping narrative of a pivotal time in the history of Europe and of science. Finishing Brave Genius, I felt inspired by the determination of the key characters in the book, by their quest for liberty in the face of great injustice, and by the power their discoveries gave to understanding the living world.”
—Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within
“The story of two brilliant men who understood better than anyone the randomness and absurdity of life, but who fought valiantly and fiercely to make the world a better place. History, personality, and ideas come together in this amazing tale of science, philosophy and friendship.”
—Sean M. Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here and Particle at the End of the Universe
Top customer reviews
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I found myself reading the book voraciously. I expected a good read, but I was moving along far faster than I expected as I was gripped by the story and the people therein.
Thank you Dr. Carroll for a wonderful book, one that I learned quite a bit from, and for giving me a reason to better appreciate the French people. Yes, they had their Petains, but then they also had the men and women like Camus and Monod, who I think spoke more to the true character of the French people, something I didn't fully appreciate until this book.
Both Camus and Monod were active in the French resistance. Camus was a gifted writer and philosopher and I loved learning about him and reading his philosophy. Monod, a gifted scientist with little tolerance for religious myth. He was the lead scientist in discovering breakthroughs in genetics.
Parts of the scientific work are difficult to get through and perhaps this could have been condensed a little. After winning the Nobel prize, Monod became a spokesman for science.
You will increase your knowledge if you read this book.
The. contrast they represented, between the writer and the microbiologist, is a theme that could have been much more fully explored.