Memoirs from Scientists
June 30, 2012 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Looking for more memoirs from scientists, along the lines of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, Robert Sopolsky's A Primate's Memoir, and Daniel Everett's Don't Sleep There Are Snakes.

I just finished Don't Sleep There Are Snakes, and loved it. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Sopolsky's book, which I also tore through years ago.
I'm not a scientist, but I love autobiographies, memoirs, and coming of age stories like these. Biographies are ok too, but I much prefer hearing the subject's own writing style (at least in these instances!) rather than the more dry, distant approach of someone who is trying to paint a complete picture of the subject. I like reading the subjective experience much more.
Don't Sleep There Are Snakes combined the memoir aspect with some very approachable lessons on linguistics, which was super neat. I'd love some more instances where the autobiography/memoir also serves as a very approachable introduction to the author's field.
posted by Curiosity Delay to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I really loved Uncle Tungsten by Oliver Sacks. Looking forward to everyone else's suggestions, I loved Feynman and Sopolsky's memoirs as well (and I guess I'm buying Everett's book next).
posted by 9000condiments at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2012

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown.

The Double Helix by James Watson.
posted by ylee at 10:34 AM on June 30, 2012

Have you read Feynman's What Do You Care What Other People Think? and The Meaning of It All? Those also provide more of what you're seeking.
posted by limeonaire at 10:46 AM on June 30, 2012

Cliff Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg is also an interesting read, written about Stoll's experiences tracking down a hacker breaking into systems at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the early days of the Internet. While this may fall more under the category of "computer science" than "science," it's definitely a good one.
posted by limeonaire at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2012

Try "T. rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez.

It is his story about how he and his father developed the theory that an asteroid strike ended the Cretaceous.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2012

Max Gergel's "Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide" (.pdf link). From the delightful blog of Derek Lowe.
posted by jet_silver at 1:12 PM on June 30, 2012

Oh, blew the link for Derek Lowe: it's . Sorry.
posted by jet_silver at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2012

Best answer: I loved The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, a biography of Paul Erdos (previously). I don't remember the writing style, but the story of his life is fascinating.
posted by Gorgik at 1:44 PM on June 30, 2012

Best answer: The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor is not first-person, but it fits the rest of your criteria.
posted by kayram at 1:49 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

"A Venomous Life: An Autobiography" by Struan K. Sutherland has some entertaining parts, though it dwells a bit too much on trifling bureaucratic squabbles.
posted by sindark at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2012

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