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Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher,…

Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from… (edition 2013)

by Sean B. Carroll

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16015118,793 (4.13)37
"The never-before-told account of two of the most insightful minds of the twentieth century--Jacques Monod and Albert Camus--and a dramatic story of how hardship and courage can unleash creative genius"--Dust jacket back.
Title:Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize
Authors:Sean B. Carroll
Info:Crown (2013), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science, Europe, history, biography

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Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize by Sean B. Carroll



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Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize by Sean B. Carroll is an account of two Frenchmen in different fields and the friendship that will come as a result of their life events. Carroll earned his BA in biology at Washington University in St. Louis. His PhD is in Immunology from Tufts Medical School, and he conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He has written several books in his field, most dealing with evolution. His research has centered around genes that control animal body patterns and and their role in the evolution of animal diversity.

Brave Genius is a departure from evolutionary biology for Carroll; instead of biology he writes history. Most of the book centers around France and World War II. There is a great deal of history of the war particularly from the French perspective. Accounts of the French resistance fighters are recorded in “Combat” written in part by resistance member Albert Camus. Likewise a biologist, studying sugar preferences of bacteria, and musician found himself in the resistance movement. Writer Albert Camus and biologist Jacques Monod will both excel in their field and win Nobel Prizes.

Carroll gives a reader a personal look at World War II and its influence on particularly Camus. Camus' The Plague will be an allegory of the Nazi occupation of France. This was also the time Camus began work on The Myth of Sisyphus-- a book on revolt and the will to live. Both Camus and communist Monod became disenchanted with Stalin's version communism. Monod who write and editorial in “Combat”criticizing the Soviet Union's Lysenko. Later Camus would write “The Blood of the Hungarians” in 1957. Camus would later go on to investigate two major questions. How to find meaning in existence and how could another war be prevented. Monod would reappear from the underground return to his family and continue his research. He would also become involve in Hungary by helping a colleague escape the totalitarian state.

Carroll combines World War II and Cold War history and their two forms of totalitarian governments against the want of the people to be free. Both men would also work inside France for freedom. Camus for a free Algeria and Monod with student unrest in 1968. What makes men great is their work beyond their vocations. Both risked their lives fighting Nazism. Both opposed Soviet communism. Camus lost a friend, Sartre, in that dispute. Monod saved a colleague.

Brave Genius is a very well written account of two of the greatest twentieth century Frenchmen. Carroll writes a compelling history and interlaces into it the work and lives of Camus and Monod. The historical events are written in detail and bring out the events that made the men and lead to their humanitarian actions. The book is very well documented and very well worth the read. Highly recommended for those interested in, or wanting to learn about Camus, Monod, and the world in their life time. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
This book is a definite departure from the usual works of this Author, in which he normally addresses the subject of biology; evolutionary biology to be exact, but in this case he has turned his writing skills to history. This book covers the stories of Albert Camus, Nobel Prize-winning writer / philosopher and political activist, and also that of Jacques Monod, Nobel Prize-winning biologist and French resistance fighter. I started reading this book not having any real knowledge of either Camus or Monod, but by the time I turned the final page the Author had done an outstanding job of expanding my education in this area.

Before the reader picks this up they need to be aware that it is a book of two distinct halves. The first half of the book centres on Occupied France during World War II and gives an in-depth look, from the French viewpoint as to what life was like living under German rule. It is apparent that the Author spent a great deal of time researching this aspect of the book as they cover in great detail the extent to which the occupation affected France, and also the circumstances that led to some of the occurrences that took place. This aspect alone makes it a great and informative read for anyone that has only a basic understanding of this era in history as it pertained to France. The Author gives the reader a personal look at these times, and from this they will be able to pick out the influence that World War II had on Camus and his future writing. The second half focuses on the work of Camus and Monod after the end of the war. Again it is very detailed and shows the reader, once again, the amount of time to research that the Author has invested during their writing of this historical chronicle.

The book is a very well documented and worthwhile the read and, although the Author paints the picture of both these men with a very broad brush, he still manages to convey the qualities that made these men great; that is the work they carried out beyond their own vocations. The Author also manages to stir in the reader feelings of admiration for both Camus and Monod to such an extent that sadness follows when we read about their deaths.

It is a long, very long read and due to the in-depth descriptions of activities taking place it can take some time to navigate; this makes it definitely not a book that can be delved into and absorbed within a few days, it needs time to be taken over it to be able to process everything that can be learnt from its pages. There were also some areas of the book that left me wondering as to the reactions and feelings of other persons mentioned, but these were just little annoyances in, what otherwise, is a very educating read.

I highly recommend this book for those who are interested in, or wanting to learn about Camus, Monod, and the way world was in their lifetime; it was would also be of great interest to anyone who enjoys a good non-fiction book that is slightly different from others in the genre. Readers of World War II history and philosophy may also enjoy this book.

Originally Reviewed on: http://catesbooknuthut.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/review-brave-genius-a-scientist-...

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
( )
  TheAcorn | Nov 8, 2019 |
This is a review that I submitted to Goodreads some time ago when I received the book as a Publisher's Advance in exchange for a review. I liked my review so much that I thought that I should share it here with other LibraryThing users....

Disclaimer: I won this book through Goodreads giveaway program. Lest you think that fact would overly influence this review let me reassure you that this is a book that I would have happily purchased, borrowed or taken out from the local library.

This book is a winner for at least 3 reasons: it has Nazis, Nobel Prizes and knowledge. It is not just a book about what happened in France during World War II. It is not just a book about French culture from the mid-20th century and all the differing political and cultural mixes that made and still make it one of the world's most vital centers. It is not just a book about how to become a respected author/journalist/playwright or a biological scientist.

Personally, I have some reasons for being interested in the topics of Brave Genius. Four of my in-laws are scientists and two of them live and work in Paris; both are biological scientists. All of us are too young to come from the same generation as the protagonists written in these pages but my French sister-in-law's mother certainly heard of Camus and Monod and was aware of them as contemporary public figures when she was alive and growing up.

The author divided the book into separate parts: the fall and occupation of France, how Camus and Monod reacted during this time by joining in Resistance activities at great risk to themselves, how they each developed their intellectual basis for their separate achievements and eventual world recognition.

The author's access to personal archive materials and memoirs of those closely involved with Monod and Camus reveals the rather intense sense of human concern that both of them had and how they felt (...acting with...) a personal sense of political responsibility to speak and act against unfair oppressions both domestic and international; they both had conscience and acted accordingly.

I enjoyed the author's writing style. Some works of non-fiction just relate the facts and events and hope that the interest by the reader will just carry them through the read; this book is far more that that. Carroll is constantly engaging and weaves the sometimes complicated events in each chapter in such a way that you are hooked and ready to jump into reading onward even if it is too late at night. I had to ration my reading.

And speaking of late at night, I actually had to stop reading the book just before retiring when he was describing the uneasy feeling of being a citizen in a country occupied by a threatening enemy. This was real and it was scary. And not just scary as many of the cliche war movies have shown it to be…it was a truly dangerous time just to be a pedestrian out for a walk around the streets of Paris and other cities; there was a finite chance that you could be picked up and made a hostage at actual risk to your own life. Carroll's writing brings this terrible sense of Zeitgeist home to me. I actually stopped reading these parts of the book in the late evening, it wrecked my sleep patterns just ruminating about how uneasy life in Vichy occupied France was for everyone, let alone as members of the Resistance as both Monod and Camus heroically were.

When you finish reading Brave Genius you really feel that you have lived a rich life along with these two amazing people and gone through sometimes extraordinarily personally challenging times. This is a book of great merit that will affect you both at the time of reading and later on when you reflect on how these two intense Frenchmen both lived lives richly examined by this author. ( )
1 vote schwarzenberger | Feb 4, 2015 |
A fascinating look at the operations of the French Resistance during World War II, and the role of Monod and Camus in that movement. Very well written and highly informative. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a very thorough and impressive book. I was engaged throughout though at times it was a little slow going so it did take me awhile to get through. The author did a tremendous job of delivering complexed scientific and philosophical prinicipals at the perfect level. He didn't make it so complexed that a layperson couldn't understand but at the same time it was thorough enough to keep persons from a scientific background engaged. The stories of Monod, Camus, Jacob and others were fascinating. I honestly don't have a strong background in WWII history so it was great for me to learn about the struggles that France went through as well as post war Europe. The only criticism I have is that at times the book dragged and I never felt a strong emotional connection to struggle that they went through. With that said, it was still a fantastic read and it makes me want to learn more about both WWII and the biological and genetic advancements of the time. ( )
  phranchk | Oct 31, 2013 |
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