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Richard Mabey

The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn

The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn by Richard Mabey is a collection of short essays based on the BBC Radio 3 broadcasts The Scientist and the Romantic

Each chapter is (loosely) based on one of our senses. In the first chapter The Greenhouse and the Field Mabey tells of how as a boy he did chemical experiments in the greenhouse and explored the wildlife of the field. Some would think (as Mabey once did) these activities as opposites, science vs romanticism, but he points out that in reality there is no such antagonism, they are both aspects of his curiousity about the world. In the second chapter The lichen and the lens Mabey tells of how he held off from buying a microscope for fear that it would give him too much of a reductionist view of the world - a fear that turned out to be wholly unjustified.

I thought that the book was well worth reading, giving insightful examples of how the setting up of science and nature as opponents is wholly unjustified. My one concern is that the book is very short. Since the broadcasts are (possibly) available to listen to for free, is it really worth spending money on the book. On the other hand, if you don't like getting bogged down in long books then this could be for you.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews