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Memoir Of A Thinking Radish: An Autobiography

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This fascinating volume presents the memoirs and reflections of Peter Medawar--the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and highly acclaimed author of Pluto's Republic, Aristotle to Zoos, and The Limits of Science. The image of man as a cross between Pascal's "thinking reed" and Falstaff's
"forked radish," that Medawar invokes with the title to his autobiography, stems from his humble desire "not to claim for myself as an author any distinction more extravagant than membership of the human race." Yet in this incisive and witty memoir, Medawar reveals the events of an exceptional
life, depicting his early days in Rio de Janeiro, his education at Oxford in the 1930s, the rewards and frustrations of his medical career, his musical education, his illnesses and recovery, his travels, and much more. This highly personal account illuminates the life of one of the most engaging
and impressive men of our time.


First published January 1, 1986

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Peter Medawar

21 books46 followers

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
64 reviews
December 28, 2015
This is the memoir of Peter Medawar, 1/2 British and 1/2 Lebanese Nobel laureate honored for his work around skin transplantation and graft rejection. Medawar studied at Oxford with brilliant scientists as well as literati like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, and he fills his autobiography with anecdotes about them and his life in science, as well as his personal journey that included illness toward the end. A wise and wonderful book, especially for those interested in the inner life of a scientist.
315 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2018
I teach college level immunology. Dr. Medawar is one of the giants in the history of immunology having been responsible for advances in transplant immunology, immunological tolerance, lymphocyte biology, etc. Medawar is also known for his literary contributions to popularizing science. I read this book with the idea that it might provide some insight into how a first class scientist thinks as he goes about his profession. I was not disappointed. Not only does Medawar write well but he includes numerous personal observations making him very accessible to the reader, almost as though we were in a one on on conversation. In fact, many of his statements so closely correspond to my own thoughts that I could have been reading about myself in certain sections. Cases in point are the following statements: "I no longer get anything like the fun out of records that I had as a boy...because for some time I have been able to buy any record I want....I look back nostalgically to the days when I saved pocket-money for weeks to buy one record..." ; "With children, that one reads is much more important than what one reads"; "there was nothing any man had written or thought that I could not master if I chose to give my mind to it": "I hardly ever use the telephone myself and dislike being telephoned" ; "selfishly guarding every second of one's time". These and other observations made me care about his story. Add to that personal touch his ability to describe his thinking in creating the seminal experiments in immunology that defined his place in history and one has a book that is both scientifically satisfying, well written and personally relatable.
Profile Image for Douglas.
191 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2023
Medawar is always a pleasure, and this is wisely thin, not slight.
Profile Image for Dennis Dennis.
4 reviews16 followers
February 16, 2015
Not a bad book, and reasonably written, although rather episodic. But the author comes across as a complete arse. Which I doubt was his intention. Feels like it was written a lot longer ago than the mid-80s.
Profile Image for Cathy Hartel.
34 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2014
Some of this was quite beyond me. I particularly liked this phrase "...the human comedy or the human predicament--very often the same thing". Good book that I'll add to my library some day.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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