PERSONAL: Married; children.
ADDRESSES: Home—Lewes, East Sussex, England. Agent—Anthony Shell, Gillon Aitken Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Place, London SW10 9PT, England.
CAREER: Writer. British Broadcasting Corporation Television and Channel 4, London, England, producer of public-affairs and documentary programing, including Newsnight and the Money Programme.
The Bureau: Inside Today's FBI, Macmillan (London, England), 1994.
Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Diarmuid Jeffreys is a British television producer and journalist who has authored two popular nonfiction titles. In his 1994 The Bureau: Inside Today's FBI he provides an objective look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). "Today" in this context means two decades following the 1972 death of J. Edgar Hoover, the bureau's original director. Jeffreys's book was based on a series of interviews for a Public Broadcasting Service documentary on the FBI, and as such Jeffreys had exclusive access to numerous members of the bureau. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly thought the author "offers fresh information on recruiting, training and tactics in the field, plus detailed descriptions of investigations."
Jeffreys serves up a different kind of history in his 2004 work Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug. Here he traces the several-thousand-year history of this drug that is used for everything from headache to heart attack. Jeffreys begins his story with ancient Egypt, where, in the second millennium B.C.E., there was recorded use of willow (the source of the salicylates or alkaloids vital to the make-up of aspirin) for its medicinal value. The story moves forward to the nineteenth century when the German company Bayer developed acetylsalicylic acid and gave its new medicine the name Aspirin. Jeffreys even makes an argument for aspirin being responsible for the rise of the Nazi party, because a major party funder was huge chemical monopoly I. G. Farben. Medical research also figures into Jeffreys's book, with aspirin credited as an anticoagulant and of possible use in cancer treatment as well as in the reduction of risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Reviewers responded positively to Jeffreys's "well-told and intriguing story," as a critic for Kirkus Reviews described Aspirin. Nicole Laskowski, writing in the University of Oregon's Etude Online, dubbed it "an amazing story" and wrote that Jeffreys's journalistic background "shines through with his extensive research, reveals this complex tale, explaining to even a layperson the intricate chemistry and science involved." A reviewer for Popular Science Online thought that "Jeffreys gets the balance just right," portraying not only the science of the drug, but also its social, political, and business history. Julie Mayeda, reviewing the book in the San Francisco Chronicle, focused on the biographical profiles found in Aspirin, including that of the Rev. Edward Stone who rediscovered the lost use of willow bark in the eighteenth century, and of Frederich Bayer who pushed forward the synthesizing of the basis of aspirin in the nineteenth century. Mayeda concluded, "Jeffreys seamlessly manages his complicated subject, rendering an absorbing account."
More praise came from Donna Chavez of Booklist who commented that Jeffreys's tale of aspirin "includes drama, pathos, plot twists, humor, intrigue and even a handful of scurrilous and despicable characters." Members of the medical community also commended his work. Reviewing Aspirin in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Ted St. Godard wrote that Jeffreys "manages to provide sufficient scientific and legal detail to adequately inform but not intimidate a general readership."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African Business, February, 2005, review of Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug, p. 64.
Booklist, September 1, 2004, Donna Chavez, review of Aspirin, p. 34; January 1, 2005, review of Aspirin, p. 767.
Bookwatch, January, 2005, review of Aspirin.
Canadian Medical Association Journal, February 15, 2005, Ted St. Godard, review of Aspirin, p. 520.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of Aspirin, p. 673.
Library Journal, September 15, 2004, Richard Maxwell, review of Aspirin, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, December 12, 1994, review of The Bureau: Inside Today's FBI, p. 54.
San Francisco Chronicle, October 24, 2004, Julie Mayeda, review of Aspirin.
Etude Online, http://www.etude.uoregon.edu/ (December 20, 2005), Nicole Laskowski, review of Aspirin.
Popular Science Online, http://www.popularscience.co.uk/ (May 31, 2005), review of Aspirin.