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A. H. Esterson (London)

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Scientists Anonymous: Great Stories of Women in Science
Scientists Anonymous: Great Stories of Women in Science
by Patricia Fara
Edition: Paperback

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really appropriate for schoolchidren, 20 Oct. 2010
There is much of interest in Patricia Fara's book, but the author's single-minded determination to 'confirm' the basic thesis of her book leads to her giving incomplete, and sometimes misleading and inaccurate, accounts of events. The tone of the book is set from the beginning, in the chapter with the title "Present": "Many people argue that it is a waste of time teaching girls physics, because they are inherently incapable of grappling with mathematical equations and lack a good 3-D imagination." I have been interested in science, education and politics for longer than I care to remember and I have never heard, or read, anyone uttering this absurd notion in the terms expressed by Fara, let alone "many people".

It would take an essay to point out some of the deficiencies and over-simplifications in Fara's accounts, so a couple of examples will have to suffice. Fara includes Rosalind Franklin as an example of "women excluded because of her sex" from a Nobel Prize. But Franklin was dead when the relevant award was made, and it is a condition of the Prize that it is not awarded posthumously. On the astronomer "Joyce" [actually Jocelyn] Bell Burnell, Fara writes: "According to Burnell, she should have shared the Nobel Prize that was awarded to her [Ph.D} supervisor." But in an article that appeared in "Annals of the New York Academy of Science" in 1977, Bell Burnell gave her reasons why she disagreed with those who thought she should have been awarded a share in the Nobel, finishing "I believe it would demean Nobel Prizes if they were awarded to research students, except in very exceptional cases, and I do not believe this is one of them."

Finally, in relation to Einstein's first wife, Mileva Maric Einstein, Fara that she "was also a physicist". In fact Mileva Maric twice failed the Zurich Polytechnic diploma exam for teaching mathematics and physics in secondary school, and did not publish a single article on physics. Fara also writes: "Some historians claim that Mileva Einstein (1875-1948) was the true source of inspiration for Albert Einstein's revolutionary theories of physics." Contary to this assertion, not a single one of the published proponents of this claim is an historian of physics, science, or any other kind of historian.

Children should be presented with a rounded account of scientific events and scientists, not one too often verging on propaganda for a particular point of view.

Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England
Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England
by Anthony Julius
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

29 of 49 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A one-sided picture, 23 May 2010
Anthony Julius has drawn a misleadingly one-sided picture of the Jewish experience in England, at least in relation to recent history. It is at odds with the view of the Chief Rabbi, who said in an interview with the BBC in 2006 that "Jews in Britain have found this country one of the most tolerant places on the face of the earth." Nor is it consistent with the polls conducted by the Anti-Defamation League on attitudes to Jews in a number of European countries. In 2002 an EU report stated that the ADL found that "Compared to most of the other EU countries agreement with anti Semitic statements in the United Kingdom was clearly lower." Again, in 2009 the ADL reported that "Britain consistently registered the lowest levels of anti-Jewish sentiment."

Perhaps an explanation for Julius's writing such a one-sided account may be found in a couple of comments he makes in the Introduction. He writes in the context of anti-Semitism that "There are certain things that will always remain unsaid between Jews and non-Jews", which to my mind implies a prejudicial attitude to non-Jews. He also claims that "For Anglo-Jewry in general, [anti-Semitism] is the background noise against which we make our lives. Almost always barely audible, one must strain to detect it..." Julius has indeed strained very hard in his attempt to demonstrate that anti-Semitism is a significant feature of present-day life in England.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2012 5:05 PM GMT

Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
by Lauren Slater
Edition: Paperback

105 of 108 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readers beware, 27 Mar. 2004
Readers should be aware that some people interviewed in this book, including prominent psychologists, have written formal letters of complaint to the President of Norton (publishers of the US edition), stating that parts of the purported conversations are defamatory inventions. Other knowledgeable psychologists have stated that important elements in Slater's descriptions of important psychological experiments are erroneous. Even before I read these complaints by a number of prominent psychologists, I had reason to doubt the veracity of the author. From lengthy extracts in the Guardian newspaper in January, and lengthy excerpts from the book on BBC Radio 4 "Book at Bedtime" (five quarter-hour readings from different chapters), I formed the opinion that some of the author's accounts of her experiences, including passages in the alleged conversations she had with current psychologists, were very unlikely to be true. Likewise the detailed account of her first attempt at replicating Rosenhan's experiment concerning the diagnosis of someone who only pretended to have symptoms of severe mental illness seems to me to be largely a product of her imagination. I suggest that people impressed by enthusiastic reviews of the book, such as some of those posted here, should keep an open mind until they have had an opportunity to see the evidence adduced by critics of Slater's book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2016 1:51 AM BST

Out Of Tune: David Helfgott and the Myth of Shine
Out Of Tune: David Helfgott and the Myth of Shine
by Margaret Helfgott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.96

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book, 2 Feb. 2000
This is a book which deserves wide circulation to counter the grossly misleading account of events in the film which purports to be based on David Helfgott's life. Margaret Helfgott's account is backed up by quotations from numerous people who knew Peter, David and the family at all periods of their lives, and who have provided testimony that the portrayal of Peter Helfgott in the film (and specifically his behaviour towards David) is a travesty of the facts. More specifically, the filmmakers were oblivious to the disrepute into which the notion that schizo-affective disorders are caused by bad parenting has fallen in modern psychiatric practice. But, as the Reverend Robert Fairman writes about the film's misrepresentations of the years David spent at his hostel after a long period of hospitalisation, 'The filmmakers' line of thinking must have been: Why let facts get in the way of a good story?'

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