A Curious Boy
‘Truth and courage are what memoirs need and this one has them both in spades … The unforgotten boy: that is what makes this a book a revelation’
‘Wonderful, absolutely beguiling … I learnt a lot and really loved it’
What makes a scientist?
Charming, funny and wise, in this memoir Richard Fortey shows how restless curiosity about the natural world led him to become a leading scientist and writer, with adventures and misadventures along the way.
From a garden shed laboratory where he manufactured the greatest stink in the world to a tent high in the Arctic in pursuit of fossils, this is a story of obsession and love of nature, flavoured with the peculiarities and restrictions of post-war Britain. Fortey tells the story of following his father down riverbanks to fish for trout, and also of his father’s shocking death. He unfolds his early passions – fungi, ammonite hunting and eyeing up bird’s eggs. He evokes with warmth and wit how the natural world started out as his playground and refuge, then became his life’s work.
Much more than a story about science alone, this memoir gives an unforgettable portrait of a young, curious mind, and shows how luck and enthusiasm can create a special life.
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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