Outsider Scientists describes the transformative role played by "outsiders" in the growth of the modern life sciences. Biology, which occupies a special place between the exact and human sciences, has historically attracted many thinkers whose primary training was in other fields: mathematics, physics, chemistry, linguistics, philosophy, history, anthropology, engineering, and even literature. These outsiders brought with them ideas and tools that were foreign to biology, but which, when applied to biological problems, helped to bring about dramatic, and often surprising, breakthroughs. This volume brings together eighteen thought-provoking biographical essays of some of the most remarkable outsiders of the modern era, each written by an authority in the respective field. From Noam Chomsky using linguistics to answer questions about brain architecture, to Erwin Schrodinger contemplating DNA as a physicist would, to Drew Endy tinkering with Biobricks to create new forms of synthetic life, the outsiders featured here make clear just how much there is to gain from disrespecting conventional boundaries. Innovation, it turns out, often relies on importing new ideas from other fields.
Without its outsiders, modern biology would hardly be recognizable.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 376
Weight: 748 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 30 mm
"Biology is a constantly shifting chimera--so we learn from this remarkable set of essays curated by Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich. But unlike the Greek mythic creature (lion, goat, snake), biology, these authors show, has been even more polymorphic, and in ever new ways: biology is put together from linguistic, philosophical, and literary practices, and involves skills borrowed from physics, computation, and chemistry, among other fields. Anyone interested in biology should read this book--and so should all of us who want to understand outside thinking as a crucial driver of innovation."
--Peter Galison, Harvard University
"Outsider Scientists is a pleasure to read and would be an excellent companion volume for an interdisciplinary class in history or philosophy of biology, science studies, or, indeed, an introductory course in the biological sciences. The contributors are outstanding, and the quality of the historical scholarship, as well as the writing, is consistently high. This volume is a great boon to teachers of science, as well as history and philosophy of science. I highly recommend to all students of biology and its history."--Science and Education