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Lewis Thomas (1913–1993)

Author of The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

20+ Works 5,054 Members 66 Reviews 11 Favorited

About the Author

Lewis Thomas was born in Flushing, New York, and received his medical degree from Harvard University, with a specialization in internal medicine and pathology. He has been a professor at several medical schools, as well as dean of the Yale Medical School. Most recently Thomas has been chancellor show more and president emeritus of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and professor of medicine at the Cornell Medical School. His erudite books have earned him a wide audience, making him one of the best-known advocates of science in the United States during the past 20 years. For example, The Lives of a Cell won the National Book Award in arts and letters in 1974, and The Medusa and the Snail won the American Book Award for science in 1981. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Lewis Thomas

Associated Works

The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008) — Contributor — 804 copies
The Best American Essays of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 784 copies
Darwin (Norton Critical Edition) (1970) — Contributor — 660 copies
American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (2008) — Contributor — 417 copies
Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution (1986) — Foreword — 311 copies
The Incredible Machine (1986) — Foreword — 258 copies
Ants, Indians, and little dinosaurs (1975) — Contributor — 191 copies
Eight Modern Essayists (1980) — some editions — 179 copies
The Norton Book of Personal Essays (1997) — Contributor — 142 copies
The Best American Essays 1993 (1993) — Contributor — 121 copies
The Woods Hole Cantata: Essays on Science and Society (1985) — Foreword, some editions — 103 copies
The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War (1983) — Foreword, some editions — 99 copies
A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology (2002) — Contributor — 83 copies
Granta 16: Science (1985) — Contributor — 82 copies
An Almanac for Moderns (1935) — Afterword, some editions — 77 copies
What’s Language Got to Do with It? (2005) — Contributor — 51 copies
Last Aid: The Medical Dimensions of Nuclear War (1963) — Foreword — 41 copies


Common Knowledge



Biologist Lewis Thomas compares and observes two species, the medusa a jelly fish and a sea slug
OmbudsmanLibrary | Apr 8, 2024 |
Haven't aged well. Not that Thomas is wrong, it's just that many of his concerns now seem irrelevant - so much has changed in the past 40 years.
3/16/24: Now see several news articles warning of increasing dangers of nuclear war.
FKarr | 6 other reviews | Dec 31, 2023 |
2023 - ‘70’s Immersion Reading Challenge

The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (#1) by Lewis Thomas (1974; 1884 ed.) 180 pages.

This book is not what I thought it was going to be about. I have basal cell melanoma on my nose that keeps popping up. I thought I could learn a thing or two. But, nope! It contains an assortment of short essays of the authors thoughts, opinions and ideas on lives of cells, their use and their purpose for existing in different species here on earth. You will need to keep a dictionary close by.

It is very reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980), except Thomas focuses more on earth; whereas, Sagan focuses on the universe. But, like Sagan, Thomas was a bit of a dreamer and rambled on and on about a lot of “what ifs”. What if we were to communicate with aliens in outer space? What if we had control over our own cells, telling them what to do instead of them telling us what to do? Rambling! This was a long, tedious and an absolute boring read.

Just so you know where this author stands on the issue of the formation of life, he states:

The uniformity of the earth’s life, more astonishing than its diversity, is accountable by the high probability that we arrived, originally, from some single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled. (p. 3)

You will read a lot of his opinions stated as facts about evolution with no mention of God’s helping hand in the matter what-so-ever. That’s fine. As an adult, accept it or not.

But, why would I even need to know that he is a Democrat in this sort of book? As he is describing the life cycle of a slime mold cell, he writes:

At first they are single amebocytes swimming around, eating bacteria, aloof from each other, untouching, voting straight Republican. (p. 14) Hmm!

Really? But, if he wants to go there, then I get to put my two cents in too…just sayin'.
… (more)
MissysBookshelf | 30 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
Thomas has a feel for biology and is very good at sharing his thoughts.
mykl-s | 30 other reviews | Aug 12, 2023 |



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