Book of the week: Backroom Boys

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Backroom Boys: the secret return of the British boffin
by Francis Spufford
Faber and Faber pound;14.99

This book consists of six vignettes in the post-war scientific and technological history of Britain. A prose stylist of the highest order, Francis Spufford has a novelist's eye for the telling detail.

The book is peppered with insight as it ranges from Britain's abortive space-launcher programme through the development of Concorde and the technology of mobile phones, to the Human Genome Project, computer games and Mars landing craft.

The book's high point is a heartening tale of altruism's triumph over avarice. Best of all, it gives due acknowledgement to the role of scientist-turned-bureaucrat Michael Morgan in ensuring that scientific knowledge of the human genome - the message of heredity written in all humanity's genes - remained in the public domain and was not appropriated for private commercial gain by a United States corporation.

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

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