Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist announced

19 September 2014

Six enthralling books that help readers to better understand themselves and the world around them have been selected as the shortlist for The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. The shortlisted books are vying for the world’s most prestigious award for popular science writing.

The author of the winning book will receive £25,000 while the authors of each shortlisted book will receive £2,500.

The six books shortlisted are:

Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball
(The Bodley Head)
The judges said: “An authoritative account of the complex science and politics of a much disputed period in history. This book shows how scientists can never divorce themselves completely from the world around them.”

Seven Elements That Have Changed The World: Iron, Carbon, Gold, Silver, Uranium, Titanium, Silicon by John Browne
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson - an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group)
The judges said: “Browne is clearly a man who has dedicated his life to the elements. This is an inspiring tale of our relationship with these seven very special elements that interweaves the culture, science and history masterfully.”

The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle over General Relativity by Pedro G. Ferreira
(Little, Brown Book Group)
The judges said: “A treasure trove of information about the theory of relativity and all its ramifications, carried along by stories of personal struggle that highlight how scientists are only human too.”

The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery by George Johnson
(The Bodley Head)
The judges said: “A wonderful and yet very sad book. It weaves together an immense amount of detail on this devastating disease with a very personal and touching story.”

Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik
(Viking – an imprint of Penguin Books)
The judges said: “This brilliantly written book is a fresh take on material science that makes even the most everyday stuff exciting and interesting. It demonstrates just how creative and ingenious the human mind can be in its ability to incorporate them into our lives.”

Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canel by Mary Roach
The judges said: “Roach is such an entertaining writer who uses humour and wit to make the mundane intriguing and the unmentionable acceptable. She ventures where few would go, for example, Elvis Presley’s poop!”

The first chapter of each book is available to download for free.

Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges, said:

“The judges had to think long and hard about which books to include on the shortlist this year. With so much good science writing out there at the moment, it was incredibly difficult to select only six. Whether we realise it or not, science is inextricably part of our culture and the books we have selected for the shortlist emphasise the central role it plays in all of our lives. Each of these books takes you on an informative and engaging journey of the science. Some are woven with humour and passionate personal stories; others shed light on incredibly complex topics. All are beautifully written and full of the wonder of science.”

The winner will be announced at a public event at the Royal Society on 10 November 2014.

The judges on this year’s judging panel are: Professor Nicola Clayton FRS (Chair), Professor of Comparative Cognition at the University of Cambridge and Scientist in Residence at Rambert (formerly Rambert Dance Company); Dr Nathalie Vriend, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge; Emma Read, Head of Factual and Features at ITN Productions; Michael Frayn, playwright and novelist, best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy; Lone Frank, former neuroscientist, journalist and author of My Beautiful Genome, shortlisted for the 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.

Commencing in 2011, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize.