Turney, Jon

views updated

Turney, Jon

PERSONAL: Education: Manchester University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Columbia University Press, 61 W. 62nd St., New York, NY 10023. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, editor, historian, reviewer, consultant, educator, and science journalist. Worked as science correspondent, science editor, and features editor for Times Higher Education Supplement throughout the 1980s; worked at University College, London, England, in the 1990s, becoming senior lecturer in science communication; has taught and lectured at Birkbeck, University of London, and at City University, London; educator and course leader of M.Sc. in creative non-fiction, Imperial College, London. Penguin Press, London, England, editorial director, beginning 2003; worked as a staff member on the Doctor newspaper. Examiner and academic evaluator at English colleges and universities, including Royal Holloway College, University of Bath, University of the West of England, Open University, and King's College, London.

AWARDS, HONORS: BMA Prize, Popular Medical Book of the Year, for Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics, and Popular Culture.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Sci-Tech Report: Everything You Need to Know about Science and Technology in the '80s (translation from the original French manuscript, L'Etat des sciences et des techniques), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1984.

Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics, and Popular Culture, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998.

(Editor) Medicine and Health Science, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2001.

(Editor, with Maurice Riordan) A Quark for Mister Mark: 101 Poems about Science, Faber and Faber (London, England), 2001.

(Editor) Science, Not Art: Ten Scientists' Diaries, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (London, England), 2003.

Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including Times Higher Education Supplement, New Scientist, Times Literary Supplement, Guardian (Manchester, England), Times (London, England), Independent, Lancet, and New York Times.

Contributor to books, including History of Medicine in the Twentieth Century, edited by R. Cooter and J. Pickstone, Harwood (London, England), 2000; Encyclopedia of the Human Genome, Macmillan (New York, NY), 2003; Explanations: Styles of Explanation in Science, edited by John Cornwell, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004; and Crossing Over: Genomics in the Public Arena, University of Calgary Press (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 2005.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Rough Guide to Genetics; Cell Wars, a book about the immune system.

SIDELIGHTS: Jon Turney is an author, editor, educator, and science journalist who writes about new science technologies and how they are communicated to the public. In a biography on his home page, Turney noted: "I have always combined academic and journalistic writing and editing and teaching." A longtime academic, he has lectured, taught, and conducted workshops throughout China, the United States, Brazil, and Europe. Turney devised and was in charge of the first diploma in science communication at Birkbeck College, and at University College, London, he taught courses in science and mass media, the history of science, genetics and society, science writing, and popular science books. In 2006, he is course leader of the M.Sc. program at Imperial College, London.

Sci-Tech Report: Everything You Need to Know about Science and Technology in the '80s is a collection of 170 articles about the state of contemporary science. Turney, the editor, noted that the purpose of the collection is to "assess the state of science and technology and locate sci-tech inventions within a wider social and political context." Bryan Silcock, writing in Nature, stated that much of the material leans to the left politically. He explained that many of the articles have an ecological bent, and that the organizations included for reference at the end of the book are primarily special interest groups. According to Silcock, the first third of the book addresses fairly predictable contemporary science topics, including computers, genetic engineering, and germ warfare. The remainder of the book delves into relatively new territory such as intellectual property issues and ongoing debates that shape the perception of science, including creationism and sociobiology. Silcock found the style of the essays "straightforward," though "uneven." But he admitted that it would be difficult to find such a varied collection of topics in any one book. He suggested that those with an interest in science will find this collection "well worth dipping into."

Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics, and Popular Culture, published in 1998, examines the evolution of biological science and how the public responds to scientific information. Turney maintains that the methods used to communicate modern biological advances to society are dictated by both popular cultural images, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the public debate by other media commentators. A description of Frankenstein's Footsteps on the publisher's Web site indicated that the book "examines how these images have developed as the growth of experimental methods has created a biology with real power to control and manipulate life." Tim Radford, writing in Lancet, called Frankenstein's Footsteps "a heroic canter through the dark and muddy landscape in which myth, metaphor, and matters of fact seem to co-exist." According to Radford, although "real scientists … get pretty fed up with seeing their work forever being reduced to this kind of imagery,… they should not. Human beings assimilate new things by referring them to some already-familiar metaphor." Margaret Henderson of the Library Journal faulted the "academic prose style" that "makes this book difficult to read," but she thought it was "a very good notion" that the public understand how science fiction and film images affect their understanding of science.

In Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life, Turney explores the history and development of British scientist James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, which states in effect that the planet Earth is not merely the home of diverse types of living organisms, but is a living organism itself. Turney explains how Lovelock, a NASA scientist in 1965, developed his theory on the basis of work he had done in search of life on Mars. Turney examines the early days of Lovelock's "Earth is alive" theory and the difficult reception it received. Dismissed, even condemned at first by scientists, the theory was embraced by environmentalists and others concerned with the condi-tion and future of the planet. As Lovelock and his collaborator, microbiologist Lynn Margulis, began to conduct additional research and publish on the theory in the 1970s, the Gaia hypothesis continued to evolve until, by the 1990s, it had gained a measure of scientific support, particularly among scientists concerned with climate change and the regulation of air pollution. "In light of environmentalism's rise, this title would be a useful overview" of the Gaia hypothesis and related subjects, noted Margaret F. Dominy in the Library Journal. With his book, Turney "provides a detailed account of a novel theory and its maverick originator," commented Booklist reviewer Rebecca Maksel.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Turney, Jon, editor, Sci-Tech Report: Everything You Need to Know about Science and Technology in the '80s (translation from the original French manuscript, L'Etat des sciences et des techniques), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1984.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2004, Rebecca Maksel, review of Lovelock and Gaia: Signs of Life, p. 370.

Lancet, December 12, 1998, Tim Radford, "Let Frankenstein's Monster Live in Science," review of Frankenstein's Footsteps: Science, Genetics, and Popular Culture, p. 1944.

Library Journal, August, 1998, Margaret Henderson, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 127; September 15, 2004, Margaret F. Dominy, review of Lovelock and Gaia, p. 80.

Natural History, September, 1998, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 12.

Nature, November 29, 1984, Bryan Silcock, review of Sci-Tech Report, p. 476; August 20, 1998, Roslynn Haynes, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 735.

New Scientist, May 23, 1998, Brian Goodwin, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 48.

New Statesman, May 1, 1998, Brian Wilson Aldiss, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 58.

Science Books & Films, November, 1998, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 233.

Spectator, May 2, 1998, Andrew Barrow, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 31.

Times Educational Supplement, May 1, 1998, Robin Buss, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. A8.

Times Higher Education Supplement, May 8, 1992, Mary Midgely, "Science and Salvation," p. 16; May 29, 1998, Mary Warnock, review of Frankenstein's Footsteps, p. 22.

OTHER

Jon Turney Home Page, http://www.jonturney.dsl.pipex.com (January 10, 2006).

Yale University Press, http://www.yale.edu/ (June 16, 1999), publisher's description of Frankenstein's Footsteps.