The Deprat Affair: Ambition, Revenge and Deceit in French Indo-China Hardcover – 7 Oct 1999
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In The Floating Egg, Roger Osborne set out to bring geology to a wider audience. The Deprat Affair continues his lifelong fascination for the subject and passes interesting social and scientific comment at the same time. Osborne's elegant account turns Jacques Deprat's life into a riveting picture of the nature of scientific study and inquiry when set against human foibles. Born the son of a teacher in provincial France, Deprat fought class barriers and financial disadvantage to become the golden boy of French geology by the time he was 33. A member of the French colonial service, he made his name in Indo-China, where his numerous fossil discoveries met with a rave reception back in France. Yet, just when he was at the height of his powers, Deprat's most important scientific papers were pronounced the results of fraud-- he was accused of having planted European fossils among those he claimed to have found in Indo-China and was ostracised by the scientific establishment.
Osborne expertly picks over the scientific arguments, while at the same time having a novelist's eye for the tensions between Deprat and those who accused him. In spite of the disgrace in which he was mired, Deprat's story is an uplifting one and Osborne turns his life of disappointments into a tale which is ultimately triumphant. --Toby Green
"Immensely readable and beautifully written." - Ruth Rendell "From the Trade Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
At the end of the book I wanted to know if he was the architect of his own downfall (I doubted it very much) or was his work sabotaged by jealous colleagues. The answer was left hanging - because investigators don't know the answer. I felt this spoiled the book but makes me want to read it again to look for further clues.
Roger Osborne made Deprat's character very real for me and I grew to admire him as a scientist and a man. I was sad when the story ended without conclusion I would recommend this book as a good read to anyone who enjoys history. It also gave me some new insights into the nature of French colonialism. Buy it. Its a good book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I discovered this book while browsing for non-fiction about the French in Indochina during colonial times. The Deprat Affair (as the author notes) provides essentially no information about the Vietnamese in French Indochina. The historical background of the French in Indochina is also barely touched on. Look elsewhere for that information. (I'm open to recommendations in that regard.) Nevertheless, Osborne does a nice job of taking this WWI era mystery and making it come to life. He includes the results of more recent investigations into the Deprat Affair, but a nice neat solution to this mystery is still not obvious. There is no clear motive. The field notes are another notable missing piece of the puzzle. Where are the field notes of Jacque Deprat? Small, sturdy, hardcover notebooks would have been an essential part of Deprat's field kit. Field notes are still important today even in the age of GPS, digital cameras, satellite photos, and laptops. Deprat did have field notes, but he never gave them to investigators or, more correctly, his accusers. It seems very unlikely that Deprat would have destroyed them.
I said that this is a book only a geologist could love, but it may be of interest to others since it illuminates the interplay of human elements in objective scientific endeavors. You could draw parallels between The Deprat Affair and more recent misunderstandings with global warming research or the various cases of fraud in clinical trials for new pharmaceuticals. I'm giving this book 5 stars because it's well written, interesting, and seems to be the only available material about this story in English. I also liked how the book touched on Carl Popper's preeminent characteristic of science: it's falsifiable... or, conversely, you can't disprove a negative. As for the book itself, it seemed a little stiff to me. Perhaps because it was printed in 2000 and has been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for 10 years. The book is printed on heavy paper in a clear readable font. The pages in my book are a little tan around the edges just like those shown in Amazon's Look Inside feature. (The publisher probably did not use acid-free paper.) The book also contains a few pages of black and white photos on glossy paper. By the way, there are two other reviews for this book on Amazon's UK website.
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