Campbell, Jeremy 1931-
Campbell, Jeremy 1931-
Born November 7, 1931, in Fareham, England; emigrated to the United States, 1965; son of Robert C. (a salesman) and Alfreda R. Campbell; married Edwina Dorothy Esme George, January 19, 1963. Education: Keble College, Oxford, B.A., 1955.
Home—Washington, DC. Agent—Richard A. Balkin, The Balkin Agency, 880 W. 181st St., New York, NY 10033.
Metal Box Co., London, England, management trainee, 1955-57; London Evening Standard, London, England, staff journalist, 1957, reporter, 1957-61, chief editorial writer, 1961-65, correspondent in Washington, DC, beginning 1965.
Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.
Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap: A Wide-Awake Inquiry into the Human Nature of Time, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.
The Improbable Machine, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood, Norton (New York, NY), 2001.
The Many Faces of God: Science's 400-Year Quest for Images of the Divine, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2006.
Jeremy Campbell's field is information theory, the study of how seemingly random structures in everyday phenomena can be interpreted as a greater entity of information that might change the way people think about science itself. In his first book, Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life, the British-born writer assesses "some of the rules … that underlie our use of words and other tools of communication," according to Joseph McLellan in a Washington Post review. "In each of the many areas he reports," wrote Jack Miles in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "Campbell concentrates on researchers who either have made use of or could well make use of information theory. The resulting synoptic view of many scientists simultaneously and independently at work is science journalism of the [forward-thinking] kind, and whatever it proves or fails to prove, it is powerfully suggestive."
Times Literary Supplement critic P.N. Johnson-Laird saw two sides to Grammatical Man. On one hand, the work "has some flaws. It embraces so much that readers may begin to feel the author is educating himself at their expense. He seems to have learned little more than he needed in order to write the book, as is betrayed by the cumulation of small errors of fact and emphasis, and by the tell-tale signs of assertions that are almost right and sentences that almost make sense." But at the same time, Johnson-Laird lauded the study as one that "contributes to order in the world rather than to disorder. Its signal-to-noise ratio is satisfactory and would have been higher had its text been filtered through the minds of some of the people whom its author interviewed. Nonetheless, a welcome should be extended to a new scientific writer and to an entertaining book."
Campbell's second book, Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap: A Wide-Awake Inquiry into the Human Nature ofTime, examines such timely questions as why a watched kettle never boils: The author concludes "that it is because all one is doing while waiting for the kettle to boil is paying attention to the passage of time, and this attention … itself makes it seem as if time has slowed down," as Los Angeles Times writer Lee Dembart described it. The volume's title refers to the way the renowned British statesman napped faithfully each day after lunch, a regimen Campbell says subscribes to "a powerful ancient biological rhythm, an artifact of an earlier evolutionary era when, for whatever reason, afternoon napping served to help the species survive," according to Wray Herbert in the Washington Post Book World. Herbert found that the author shows, "in addition to the obvious biological rhythms—the daily sleep-wake cycle, the monthly menstrual cycle—our bodies and minds are under the influence of many, and even subtler, rhythms: predictable rhythms in core body temperature, levels of stress hormones, blood levels of iron, blood pressure."
"In developing his thesis, [Campbell] accumulates an impressive array of facts, many little known beyond specialized circles," stated New York Times Book Review critic F. Gonzalez-Crussi. "To feel no gratitude for so much [research] effort would make us, to say the least, ill-bred folk. But it would be untrue to say that all is pleasant jaunt and balmy breezes. The trip is at times marred by [the author's] compulsion to tell all." But Gonzalez-Crussi concluded that in Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap Campbell has written "an intelligent, carefully researched and instructive book. I know of no work of scientific exposition that packs between two covers so much information on chronobiology. The reader will also find many richly suggestive ideas, as is congruous with the ambitious choice of subject matter." For Herbert, Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap proves the author's "convincing case, [and in doing so] Campbell provides some excellent science reporting on this relatively obscure area of research, and he provides context for his findings by drawing on a wide range of sources in philosophy and world literature. The result is a valuable resource for any serious student of human nature."
Campbell's The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood also looks to biology to explore an abstract concept: this time, the question of why people lie. Ambitiously exploring his topic all the way back to the pre-Socratic Greeks, Campbell uses Charles Darwin as his central figure in his analysis of lying. It was Darwin who showed that wild animals sometimes use prevarication as a survival technique, such as when an animal uses camouflage to pretend it is a different, more dangerous animal, or changes its behavior to win a mate, and Campbell builds on this to show that lying may be a necessary part of being human. As John Mullan put it in his Guardian review: "Part of Campbell believes that falsehood is the ‘lubricant that makes society run.’" Combining his biological argument with the history of philosophy, Campbell begins his book with ancient philosophers such as Plato before proceeding on to the Renaissance and more abstract ruminations about the nature of truth and falsehood put forth by such luminaries as Roger Bacon, René Descartes, and William of Ockham. Campbell then moves on to more modern philosophers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant, and Jacques Derrida, while also touching on Sigmund Freud. But although Campbell shows that a world in which people tell only the truth is impossible, he warns against elevating "lying to the status of an art [that] … neutralizes untruth by proclaiming that all language is inherently untrustworthy." As Francis Kane related in the New York Times Book Review, Campbell's "tale ends on a monitory note: while postmodern culture may free the imagination by ‘removing the traditional anchors, dissolving the foundations,’ it could also unleash ‘a certain kind of madness’ that would plunge us into an Orwellian world where telling the truth would be a revolutionary act."
A number of critics found The Liar's Tale to be a valuable, though flawed, work. A Publishers Weekly contributor, for example, complained that Campbell's "weak introduction" to his book makes for a weakened thesis and that he needs to make "his own position clearer" on the necessity of truth in society. Nevertheless, the critic praised The Liar's Tale for its insightful study of the history of truth in society, concluding that this "is a valuable account of how truth and falsehood got where they are today." Tom Leclair, writing in Book, also lauded Campbell's work for making what could have been a daunting philosophical study into a readable text. "Campbell provides many ample, well-paced explanations to support his findings," asserted Leclair, who considered The Liar's Tale a "fascinating" offering.
In his The Many Faces of God: Science's 400-Year Quest for Images of the Divine Campbell examines, as Gregg Sapp reported in Library Journal, "how science limits perceptions of how God works and what he can do." Tracing the scientific influences on God's image from seventeenth-century scientists such as Isaac New- ton to modern-day thinkers like Niels Bohr, Campbell presents "an engaging and wide-ranging work," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic, who further termed The Many Faces of God an "intriguing analysis of a continuing conversation." Sapp, however, was less impressed with the work, complaining of "an obtuse style and a tendency to digress." However, Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen had a higher assessment, observing: "In a provocative and much-needed investigation, Campbell illuminates the ways in which science has recast the meaning of religious faith."
Campbell once told CA how he came to write about science: "I came to science very late. I've been a journalist for a lot of years, and I've never been a science journalist. I came to America in 1965 from London for my paper, the London Evening Standard. I had read English at Oxford, which tends to be a little bit pro-humanist studies, and I'd felt then that scientists were people in a little ghetto, almost a separate society. C.S. Lewis once or twice in his writings refers to scientists as uneducated, and there is a kind of tradition that reflects that trend of thinking. But that may be entirely different now. I know that Baliol, for example, has just appointed as its next master an American scientist. That caused, as you can imagine, a great sensation.
"When I came here, I was almost anti-science and very pro-arts. But the longer I stayed here, the more that changed. I think in this country—maybe partly because of the scientists who came here in the thirties—there is a very strong scientific culture which is not closed off and inaccessible. I find many of the scientists I meet here have immensely broad interests; they're not just technical people, but they see how science fits into the rest of culture and other ideas. That took me by surprise and stirred my interest greatly. I realized that, in fact, just taking ideas as ideas, a lot of the most exciting ideas now are not going on in philosophy and maybe not even in the arts (which I think are stagnating a little bit) but in science, where there's a great fountain of ideas coming out. And scientists are so open to change and new ways of looking at old problems here."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Campbell, Jeremy, Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap: A Wide-Awake Inquiry into the Human Nature of Time, Simon & Schuster, 1987.
Book, July, 2001, Tom Leclair, review of The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood, p. 68.
Booklist, May 15, 2001, Bryce Christensen, review of The Liar's Tale, p. 1711; July 1, 2006, Bryce Christensen, review of The Many Faces of God: Science's 400-Year Quest for Images of the Divine, p. 11.
Guardian (London, England), January 5, 2002, John Mullan, "Feigning Truth: John Mullan Wrote This. Honest: The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood by Jeremy Campbell," p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of The Many Faces of God, p. 554.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Gregg Sapp, review of The Many Faces of God, p. 104.
Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1987, Lee Dembart, review of Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap: A Wide-Awake Inquiry into the Human Nature of Time.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 26, 1982, Jack Miles, review of Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language, and Life.
New York Times Book Review, March 8, 1987, F. Gonzalez-Crussi, review of Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap; September 23, 2001, Francis Kane, "The Truth about Lying," review of The Liar's Tale, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, July 2, 2001, review of The Liar's Tale, p. 63.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of The Many Faces of God.
Times Literary Supplement, November 4, 1983, P.N. Johnson-Laird, review of Grammatical Man.
Washington Post, September 1, 1982, Joseph McLellan, review of Grammatical Man.
Washington Post Book World, March 1, 1987, Wray Herbert, review of Winston Churchill's Afternoon Nap.