Charles, Daniel 1960–
Charles, Daniel 1960–
PERSONAL: Born 1960.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ecco Press, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer. National Public Radio, technology correspondent, 1993–99; worked on farms in Pennsylvania and France; German Academic Exchange Service scholar, Bonn, Germany; Institute for Peace Research and International Security, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany, research fellow; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Knight Science journalism fellow.
Nuclear Planning in NATO: Pitfalls of First Use, Ballinger Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 1987.
Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food, Perseus Books (Cambridge, MA), 2001.
Contributor to New Scientist and Science.
SIDELIGHTS: Daniel Charles has written about science for a lay audience in many different media: as a correspondent for National Public Radio, for magazines, and in books. His second book, Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food, is a history of so-called "Frankenfoods"—food crops that have been genetically engineered to make them healthier to eat, easier to grow, or more profitable for corporate owners, such as Monsanto, that invest in the technology. Lords of the Harvest "is replete with an incredible chain of one-upsmanship, hunches that led to breakthroughs, fights for monopolies, competition between companies, and clashing philosophies," Edna M. Boardman wrote in Kliatt. Charles does not condemn any side in this fight; rather, as Bruce E. Tabashnik commented in the Quarterly Review of Biology, he chooses to provide "an entertaining and informative look at the interplay among science, industry, and public policy." "This carefully researched and balanced account is intended to help the reader understand the how and the why of genetic engineering rather than make an argument for or against it," William H. Wiese explained in Library Journal. Booklist reviewer David Pitt, examining a different aspect of the book, praised Charles's writing skill, noting that the story is "told with a science reporter's expertise and a storyteller's grace."
Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, a Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare, Charles's third book, is a "vivid, fast-paced, economically written biography," Gregg Sapp wrote in Library Journal. Master Mind is the story of Haber, a German scientist who won the 1918 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in developing the first manmade fertilizers. Haber discovered a process to create ammonia, the precursor to many nitrogen-based fertilizers, by using only air (over seventy-five percent of which is nitrogen) and hydrogen. This process made it possible to produce inexpensive chemical fertilizers that enabled countries around the world to feed their growing populations. Ironically, the process also enabled Germany to continue to produce gunpowder during World War I even after the British naval blockade stopped that nation from importing most raw materials, including nitrate. "It's this harrowing moral thicket that most fascinates Charles," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Haber also did work directly for the benefit of the German military, including pioneering research into the use of gases as weapons. The latter research may have cost Haber his wife; also a scientist, she committed suicide a week after the poison gas was first deployed at the Battle of Ypres. "Readers will find this harsh account of Haber's life a fascinating but sobering tale of a scientist who made a Faustian bargain for success," commented a Science News reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Master Mind is "a welcome and accessible addition to the history of science, and an object lesson in the perils of scientific amorality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food, p. 270.
Isis, September, 2002, Michael Strauss, review of Lords of the Harvest, p. 531.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, a Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare, p. 521.
Kliatt, July, 2003, Edna M. Boardman, review of Lords of the Harvest, p. 44.
Library Journal, November 15, 2001, William H. Wiese, review of Lords of the Harvest, p. 91; August 1, 2005, Gregg Sapp, review of Master Mind, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, May 16, 2005, review of Master Mind, p. 48.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 2002, Bruce E. Tabashnik, review of Lords of the Harvest, p. 439.
Science News, August 6, 2005, review of Master Mind, p. 95.