Format: Paperback
Book type: Anthology
ISBN-13: 9781905583331
Published: 01 May 2011

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Like the creation myths they supersede, the revelations of science are seared into our collective imagination through storytelling. From Archimedes' bath to Newton's apple, vivid accounts of scientific discovery help us understand the principles behind each theory, and add to the larger narrative of how the universe works, and how we came to be here.

This anthology draws out and distills science’s love of narrative from a wide range of scientific disciplines, weaving theory into very human stories, and delving into the humanity of theorists and experimenters as they stood on the brink of momentous discoveries: from Joseph Swan’s original light-bulb moment to the uncovering of ‘mirror neurons’ lighting up empathy zones in the human brain; from Einstein's revelation on a Bern tram, to Pavlov’s identification of personality types thanks to a freak flood in his St Petersburg lab.

Each story has been written in close consultation with scientists and historians and is accompanied by a specially written afterword, expanding on the science for the general reader.

Together, they bring vividly to life the stories behind the 'eureka!' moments that changed the way we live, forever.


Featuring contributions from:

Prof Jim Al-Khalili, Dr Martyn Amos, Dr Robert Appleby, John Clayson, Prof. Matthew Cobb, Sarah Fox, Kathryn Harris, James Higgerson, Dr Nick R. Love, Dr Tim O'Brien, Prof. Denis Noble, Prof. Giacomo Rizzolatti, Dr Zoe Schnepp, Dr James Sumner, Dr Angharad Watson & Dr John Wearden .

Find the audiobook on Audible.


'Exquisite... delectable' - New Scientist

BOOK OF THE WEEK: 'The pairings work brilliantly, giving stereoscopic vision... ingenious... unfailingly interesting.' - The Independent

'A very alive, illuminating and good-natured collection' - The Observer

'An inspiring tribute to inquiring minds.' - The Guardian

'The tale of Henrietta Leavitt, by Sara Maitland, is particularly luminous, and inexplicably moving.' - Richard P. Grant,

'I plunged into Litmus... then I couldn't put it down. I wept...I laughed...I shuddered...I was fascinated.' - Sue Haigh, The Short Review

Listen to Alison MacLeod being interviewed by Mark Lawson about her shortlisted story on BBC Radio 4
Listen to a reading of MacLeod's 'The Heart of Denis Noble' on Radio 4's 'Pick of the Week'

Listen to author Sarah Hall and editor Ra Page discuss Litmus on BBC Radio 4's Front Row

Listen to Jane Rogers read an extract of her story 'Morphogenesis' on BBC Radio 3's The Verb


Selected for The Observer's Best Books of the 2011 list.

Features Alison MacLeod's 'The Heart of Denis Noble' - Shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Prize 2011 and longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012