Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Report: "Ambition and Delight"

Henry Bourne was one of my most valued mentors in graduate school. I could always count on him to provide some much-needed perspective, and his advice was always clear and balanced, so I was extremely excited to read his memoirs, "Ambition and Delight". My expectations were pretty high, but I wasn't at all disappointed. I think both scientists and non-scientists would enjoy the book.

For scientists, it's inspiring to read about the rapid progress early in Henry's career when he and others elucidated how information contained in chemical cues traverses the membrane and induces cellular responses. At the same time, he explains how specific relationships and institutional elements helped him along the way (while others maybe didn't help so much) and provides plenty of insight and advice for success in academia. For non-scientists, he nicely explains the process of science, with its inherent frustrating and exciting elements.

The voice is undeniably Henry. There are certainly numerous humorous passages, and Henry is never afraid to point out other people's shortcomings, in addition to his own. In fact, my only complaint is that he is far too modest. He describes himself as an "ordinary" scientist, a label I find absurdly inaccurate. Nevertheless, I heartily recommend "Ambition and Delight" for almost all the readers of this blog (all four of you).

You can order your own copy here.

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