Based on the recommendation from one of my professors, I recently finished this wonderful book by Jonathan Weiner. “Time, Love, Memory: A Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior” beautifully walks the line between scientific and journalistic writing. It is the rare breed of book which is very well written and easy to understand, without losing the integrity of its scientific discussions.
“Time, Love, Memory” presents the stories of a series of scientists, centered around Dr. Seymour Benzer, who used fruit flies (Drosophila Melanogaster) to decipher genes which help to program flies’ internal clocks, sexual preferences, personalities, and appearances. Over many decades, Dr. Benzer and his colleagues pioneered the field of molecular biology, discovering dozens of genes in Drosophila with human homologues (equivalences, though not necessarily for the same function).
Drosophila were an ideal animal model to perfom these scientific experiments and make these discoveries as they are genetically [relatively] uncomplicated, small, proliferative (they reproduce quickly), and each to take care of/maintain. The techniques Dr. Benzel designed to start to unlock their genetic codes are still considered to be mind-boggling in their elegance and simplicity. Reader of “Time, Love, Memory” should also respect how much patience, perserverance, and dedication it took Dr. Benzer and his colleagues to make these discoveries.
I especially love how the author discusses the interpersonal relationships of the scientists. It is rare that non-fiction science literature put so much emphasis on humanizing the scientists without detracting from the significance of the science. I wish more writing on scientific discoveries put that kind of effort into painting the faces behind the science.
This is the style of scientific writing that I envy and I sincerely hope to one day be able to write about my own research in such a widely comprehensible manner.