A Curious Boy
What makes a scientist? In a charming memoir, beloved and brilliant scientist Richard Fortey offers a tour of the natural world in all its joys, puzzles and curiosities.
In this memoir, Richard Fortey – a palaeontologist and natural historian – tells the story of how as a young boy he became fascinated with the natural world, leading to a long life exploring its secrets. He leads a journey through botany and birds, fossils and fungi, using a different object to lead each chapter.
A great brown trout caught by his father opens up the world of fish, streams and rivers. A blue thrush’s egg takes us out tramping through water meadows and into the social world of birds and trees. Richard takes us back to his past as a small boy who was allowed a little shed at the bottom of the garden in which to play chemist, and where, with the guidance of the encyclopaedia, he made the likes of potassium cyanide from horse hoof clippings, and then the ‘smelliest substance’ – a chemical that when taken outside the shed’s confines brought mayhem to his school, and the Central Line.
Educational and inspiring, this is a charming memoir of a life in the thrall of science and the wonders of the natural world.
Advance praise for A Curious Boy 'Truth and courage are what memoirs need and this one has them both in spades ... He never forgets that the small boy, watching his father's effortless casting on the waters of the Itchen, somehow remains permanently present inside the great, famous and lauded scientist. The unforgotten boy: that is what makes this a book a revelation' Adam Nicolson, winner of the 2018 Wainwright Prize 'A wonderful, absolutely beguiling glimpse into the formative life of a great scientist. I learnt a lot and really loved it' Richard Holmes Praise for Richard Fortey 'Marvellous ... Fortey's prose is a joy ... his sharp eye and ceaselessly inquiring mind are an inspiration' Daily Mail 'His remarkable scientific knowledge, intense curiosity and love of nature mean entries erupt with the same richness and variety as the woods they describe ... Fortey's enthusiasm for his new wonderland is infectious and illuminating .... deep and interesting' Guardian 'Fortey's forte is that he gets down and dirty in this diary of his beech wood. If you go down to the woods today, take Fortey with you' John Lewis-Stempel, Books of the Year, The Times 'Read this book because it is, indeed, the best natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth.' John Gribbin, Sunday Times 'Richard Fortey is a scientist... but his big, rich history of four billion years of evolution is written with an artist's zest for life and language. Anyone who wants to understand how we came to be here on earth, 4,000,000,000 years after life began, should read this sparkling book.' Maggie Gee, Daily Telegraph The tale of life needs constantly retelling. Thank some happy accident of history that we have Fortey to tell it to us anew.' Ted Nield, New Scientist
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