Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books Longlist Announced

28 June 2011

The longlist for this year’s Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books – the world’s most prestigious award for science writing – has been announced. The judges selected a longlist of thirteen books:

Alex’s Adventures in Numberland by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury)
The judges said: “A playful book that joyously takes us all by the hand on a grown-up trip through the world of mathematics”

Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging and Mating by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig (Yale University Press)
The judges said: “This book uses an unlikely subject to draw out many of the major principles of biology, drawing the reader into the surprisingly fascinating world of the spider.”

Through the Language Glass: How Words Colour Your World by Guy Deutscher (William Heinemann)
The judges said: “A quirky book about the science of language, brought to life with history and anecdote.”

Here on Earth: A new beginning by Tim Flannery (Allen Lane, Penguin Books)
The judges said: “Depicting the Earth as a superorganism of which we are just a part, the author uses his optimistic, experienced voice to unravel the natural history of our world and ourselves.”

The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman (The Bodley Head)
The judges said: “This book has a wonderfully engaging biographical curve, interwoven with the scientific theories of altruism postulated by its hero.”

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean (Little, Brown and Company)
The judges said: “A charming book that brings the elements of the periodic table to life.”

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly (Viking)
The judges said: “The concept at the centre of this book, that technology is evolving somehow and ‘going somewhere’, felt immensely relevant and intrigued us all.”

The Wavewatcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Bloomsbury)
The judges said: “A lovely, eccentric book filled with fascinating science that takes apart all elements of waves.”

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley (Fourth Estate)
The judges said: “Reading this book made us all feel more cheerful and provided a welcome counter-balance to some of the distortions of science by the media.”

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (Oneworld Publications)
The judges said: “This sharp and witty exploration of spaceflight is a rare combination - a science book with a sense of humour.”

Massive: The Missing Particle That Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science by Ian Sample (Basic Books)
The judges said: “An exciting adventure through the world of the biggest subject in physics: the Higgs boson.”

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah (Sarah Crichton Books)
The judges said: “This book looks at an immense political and scientific challenge, malaria, and illuminates the heroic role science has played in the battle against it.”

The Rough Guide to The Future by Jon Turney (Rough Guides)
The judges said: “We really enjoyed the unusual format of this book, whose many summaries, boxes, graphs and illustrations made the huge range of issues covered really accessible.“

Monica Ali, Chair of the judges, said: “The vast range and sheer number of popular science books clearly demonstrates the growing importance of science in all parts our world and a wider recognition of that importance.  Narrowing down the entries to just thirteen long-listed books was surprisingly tough, choosing a shortlist seems likely to prove even tougher!”

This year’s longlist includes twelve authors who are new to the prize, and just one who has been previously shortlisted (Matt Ridley, who has been shortlisted five times and longlisted once in the past).

The Royal Society is delighted to announce that, commencing this year, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management has agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize.

The shortlist will be announced on 27th September 2011. The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Royal Society on 17th November 2011 and awarded £10,000. The authors of each shortlisted book will receive £1000.

The judges on this year’s judging panel are Monica Ali, author; Professor Jenny Clack FRS, Professor and Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology; Richard Holmes, biographer; Robert Llewellyn, writer, actor and TV presenter and Professor Cait McPhee, Professor of Biological Physics.