Monday, May 15, 2006

Science and Creativity


Reading on the train in to London this morning, I came across a most excellent line: 'Death is not a satisfactory endpoint'.

This came from an article by R.W.Torrance, 'Haldane and Indifferent Gases: O2 secretion or CO excretion?' I am most assuredly not a scientist, part of the big adventure of my current exploit, writing the biography of the scientist J.S.Haldane (pictured). Death as 'not a satisfactory endpoint' seems a wonderfully scientific viewpoint. Science texts offer occasional lines like prisms of alternative worldviews.

My London trip was to visit a Haldane grandchild, Professor Avrian Mitchison. He's also the son of the novelist Naomi Mitchison. Her son felt she and he shared the same view, that 'creativity in science and literature are not coextensive but in principle pretty much the same.' So I feel I about bringing creativity to the biography.

I've been amassing rather than studying papers and books of Haldane's science over these last two years, but some osmosis seems to have happened in that I begin to find informed viewpoints stirring in myself. My main hope is that scientists will follow this biography with their own studies into Haldane's work and legacy, but the science must be real and exciting for both the scientist and lay readers. The first biography of Brunel in 1957 brought him from relative obscurity to household name of the past. That's what I'm seeking for Haldane.

I'm about to burrow through more science. In the morning I fly out to Vancouver and a week in the Charles Woodward Memorial Room at the University of British Columbia. You want Darwin's papers? They're here, as with Haldane's and his uncle, John Burdon Sanderson. And in closing hours I'll be coming to know Vancouver for the first time. This probably means fewer postings for a while - excuse me. I'll bring back tales from the silence.

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