Chris McManus

Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures

Winner, Aventis Prize for Science Books 2003

In this sweeping and penetrating investigation into the lop-sided universe, Chris McManus takes familiar, deceptively simple questions about handedness and asymmetry and attempts to answer them: Why are most people right-handed? Why is the heart always on the left-hand side of the body? Why does European writing go from left to right while Arabic scripts go from right to left? Why are male testicles unbalanced? Why are muppets left-handed? Right Hand, Left Hand uses sources as diverse as the paintings of Rembrandt and the drawings of Leonardo, the origins of medieval iconography, the history of medicine, molecular biology, particle physics and sport to explain the vast repertoire of left-right' symbolism that permeates our everyday lives. Chris McManus addresses questions about why the universe, the human body and our societies and cultures are so full of distinctions between left and right. He concludes his grand tour by arguing that many of these differences have a single ultimate cause that can be traced back to an underlying asymmetry long, long ago in the depths of space.

Judges' comments

"An accomplished celebration of asymmetry and a perfect balance between science and culture."

Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books

Royal Society Prize for Science Books

Aventis Prize for Science Books

See the full list of all the winners.