The Popularizing Science

ISBN : 9780199333929

Krishna Dronamraju
384 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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  • Written based on eye-witness accounts by Haldane's last graduate student
  • Details the life of Haldane as a contradictory renaissance scholar: classicist and scientist, socialist and class elitist, bombing officer and pacifist
  • Biography follows the romp of Haldane's turbulent life, including the dismissal and reinstatement at Cambridge, and ultimate relocation to India
  • Explains his role in the advancement of the popular appeal of science through his writing
  • Illustrated with personal photos of Haldane otherwise unavailable
  • Of interest to individuals intrigued with science and biography, especially those engaged with life science and medical studies

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) is widely appreciated as one of the greatest and most influential British scientists of the 20th century, making significant contributions to genetics, physiology, biochemistry, biometry, cosmology, and other sciences. More remarkable, then, is the fact that Haldane had no formal qualification in science. He made frequent appearances in the media, making pronouncements on a variety of poignant topics including mining disasters, meteorites, politics, and the economy, and was a popular scientific essay writer. Haldane also was famed for conducting painful experiments on himself, including several instances in which he permanently himself. A staunch Marxist and convert to Hinduism, Haldane lived a diverse, lively and interesting life that is still revered by today's science community.

A biography of Haldane has not been attempted since 1968, and that book provided an incomplete account of the man's scientific achievement. "The Life and Works of J.B.S. Haldane" serves to fix this glaring omission, providing a complete biographical sketch written by Krishna Dronamraju, one of the last living men to have worked personally with Haldane. A new genre of biographies of 20th-century scientists has come into being, and thus far works have been written about men like Einstein, Oppenheimer, Bernal, Galton, and many more; the inclusion of Haldane within this genre is an absolute necessity. Dronamraju evaluates Haldane's social and political background, as well as his scientific creativity and accomplishments. Haldane embodies a generation of intellectuals who believed and promoted knowledge for its own sake, and that spirit of scientific curiosity and passion is captured in this biography.


1. Family background and early life (Ancestry, Childhood, Education)
2. Charlotte and Sex Viri (Marriage and Scandal, Sex viri)
3. Eugenics and Predictions (1923)
4. Population genetics (1924)
5. Evolutionary biology (1924)
6. On being a guinea pig (1924)
7. Chemical genetics (1927)
8. Origin of life (1929)
9. Human genetics (1931)
10. The Marxist Years
11. Lysenko controversy
12. Helen Spurway (Second wife)
13. Popularizing science
14. Haldane and Huxley
15. Relations with other scientists
16. Moving to Paradise (1957)
17. Life in Paradise (1957-1964) (Death)
18. Haldane and Religion
19. Impact of Haldane Today
20. Timeline

About the author: 

Krishna Dronamraju, President, Foundation for Genetic Research
Krishna Dronamraju is an Indian-born geneticist and President of the Foundation for Genetic Research in Houston, Texas. Dr. Dronamraju completed his PhD from Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta under the guidance of JBS Haldane. Dronamraju also completed advanced training at University College London and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in genetics at the University of Alberta.

"This comprehensive look at Haldane is broken into five parts with each part representing a decade of his life, beginning with the 1920s, after a brief glimpse into Haldanes early family life. [...] This comprehensive book is obviously the result of extensive research on the author's part and pairs nicely with his personal knowledge of Haldane.I thoroughly enjoyed this biography, finding it interesting as well as informative. The details of Haldanes personal life had me incredulous; he was astoundingly diverse and unorthodox in many regards. [...] I believe it to be as competent a biography as is possible." - onlinebookclub.com

"This is a thorough biography of J. B. S. Haldane ... The book has many photographs, a useful time line, and is also well footnoted ... Recommended." - CHOICE

"He was an immensely successful populariser of science and proselytiser for it, while strongly emphasising that scientific advance may demand difficult ethical choices ... He is well served by Krishna Dronamraju in this largely chronological biography, the first for nearly 50 years." - Richard Joyner, Times Higher Education

"In Dronamraju's 384-page, largely chronological biography of his beloved mentor, he captures the essence of a highly influential scientist who was a consummate polymath....While Dronamraju's latest work took only a year to write, he says, the book reflects a long careers worth of research, thinking and synthesis. He says simply, I spent all my life on it." - Sue D Pasquale, John Hopkins Medicine Magazine

"provide[s] solid information about the life of one of the most important and interesting scientists of the past century. It makes it clear why, like everyone I have known who was acquainted with Haldane, Dronamraju is overwhelmed with admiration for his abilities, despite his often diffi cult behaviour. Haldane's contributions to biology will be remembered long after his personal and political foibles are forgotten." - Brian Charlesworth, Current Biology

"Dronamraju presents a vivid picture of a geneticist who was a polymath, spread thin by his multiple interests, a creator of new fields of science, and a flawed personality who could inspire young students, amuse and inform the public about science in their lives, and exasperate his peers by his unconventional attitudes." - Elof Axel Carlson, Quarterly Review of Biology

"I have just received your book on, Popularizing Science : The Life and Work of JBS Haldane. I am so happy that the remarkable contributions of JBS Haldane have been chronicled. He was a scientist who was committed to spreading the scientific temper and ethos. This book has captured the multifaceted achievements of JBS Haldane." - Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, F.R.S., Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation

"...the account is generally well written, and the thought-provoking subject material means that many sections of the book are easy to read." - Dr Martin Sayer, Journal Underwater Technology

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