The remarkable story of J.Craig Venter's journey from early childhood to becoming one of the leading scientists of the twenty-first century has been tipped to take this year's Royal Society Prize for Science Books, with William Hill making it the 2/1 favourite to win the prize, it was announced today (Tuesday 3 June 2008).
The competition is so tight this year that Venter is closely followed in the race to win the prestigious prize by three books, Steve Jones' Coral, Stuart Clark's The Sun Kings and Ian Stewart's Why Beauty is Truth. With odds of 4/1, they are all joint second favourites.
Graham Sharpe, from William Hill, said: "This looks to be a very open year in betting terms, with no red hot favourite and no complete no-hopers."
The William Hill odds for the six shortlisted books are:
Odds: 2/1 A Life Decoded, by J. Craig Venter (Penguin Allen Lane) tells the tale of how a mischievous child chasing planes on the runway became one of the leading and most controversial scientists of the twenty-first century. Along the way Venter examines his own genetic code and charts his scientific accomplishments.
Odds: 4/1 Coral: A pessimist in paradise by Steve Jones (Little, Brown), a narrative that reveals some of the surprising truths that coral uncovers about the mixed fortunes the Earth has had throughout its history and its uncertain future.
Odds: 4/1 The Sun Kings by Stuart Clark (Princeton University Press), enthralls you in the scientific controversy which governed the nineteenth century, bringing to life the struggles of Victorian scientists trying to prove the Sun's role in the Universe.
Odds: 4/1 Why Beauty Is Truth by Ian Stewart (Basic Books), explores the history of symmetry an important concept which lies at the heart of physics and mathematics and tells the charming stories of the people involved.
Odds: 6/1 Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer (Penguin - Allen Lane), analyses the way people make decisions and reveals the secrets of how to make good decisions. Sometimes the art of being a better decision maker is knowing what you don't need to know.
Odds: 6/1 Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet by Mark Lynas (Fourth Estate) charts the possible disastrous consequences that a climate increase of up to six degrees would have, however, Lynas also highlights that these frightening consequences with some careful planning can be avoided.
The winner will be announced on Monday 16 June 2008 and awarded £10,000. The author of each shortlisted book will receive £1000.
The Royal Society Junior Science books prize, which is selected entirely by judging panels of young people, will also be announced at the same ceremony.
The six books shortlisted for the Junior Prize are Ask Dr K Fisher about animals by Claire Llewellyn, How the incredible human body works, by the Brainwaves, written by Richard Walker, illustrated by Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling, It's elementary! by Robert Winston, Serious Survival: How to Poo in the Arctic and Other Essential Tips for Explorers by Marshall Corwin, The big book of science things to make and do by Rebecca Gilpin and Leonie Pratt , and Why is snot green? by Glenn Murphy.
The Royal Society is grateful to the Beecroft Trust for supporting the 2008 Prizes while the Society seeks longer-term support for 2009 onwards.