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Royal Society Winton Prize 2015

MThe  books listed for the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize, arguably a summary of the best popular science books published in 2014.


  • Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made by Gaia Vince

The judges said: “Vince’s passion and strong voice grabs you instantly and the story she tells is truly original. A finely-crafted book on an important, urgent topic.”


  • The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam
The judges said: “An amazingly gripping and informative look inside someone’s head, told with a depth of knowledge and genius turn of phrase that only an expert and gifted writer could wield.”

  • Alex Through the Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life by Alex Belos
The judges said: “Bellos fizzes with enthusiasm, and his genuine love for the subject shines through and makes mathematics engaging and non-threatening even for math-phobes.”

  • Smashing Physics: Inside the World's Biggest Experiment by John Butterworth
The judges said: “With his unique insider perspective, Butterworth has humanized a classic science story that we all thought we knew. His writing is so engaging that he makes some of the most advanced science around seem within our grasp.”

  • Life's Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code by Matthew Cobb
The judges said: “A brilliantly written account of one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century, with a fresh perspective that also dispels the myths popularised by previous reports.”

  • Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe Mcfadden and Jim Al-Khalili
The judges said: “A topic that could have been incomprehensible to the average reader becomes unexpectedly enthralling in the hands of these skilled communicators. A controversial work that deserves its already wide audience.”


Bizarrely, there was no longlist this year.

and here are our favourites that didn’t make the long list, but should have:


Award-winning author Sarah Waters is one of six judges chaired by mathematician and Royal Society Fellow Ian Stewart, widely known for the Science of Discworld series, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett and Jack Cohen.

They are joined by: Channel 4 anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, science journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science Dr Adam Rutherford, electrical engineer Dr Jo Shien Ng and Guardian Books Editor Claire Armitstead.

The Prize has worked with many eminent judges over its illustrious 28-year history, among them Ian McEwan, Terry Pratchett, Brian Cox, David Attenborough, Tracy Chevalier and Michael Frayn.

Founded in 1988, (and previously known under various banners including the Royal Society Prize for Science Books, Aventis Prize and Rhône-Poulenc Prize), the Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world and is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience. Over the decades it has championed writers such as Stephen Hawking, Jared Diamond, Stephen Jay Gould and Bill Bryson.

Sarah Waters said: “Although I was very interested in science as a child, I've been more at home, as an adult, with literature and theatre. So I'm not a traditional science buff by any means, but fundamentally I'm still interested in how things work, in systems and in processes, and I’m keen to reconnect with that. I am awed by the range of knowledge that is being brought to the table by my fellow judges, and I'm looking forward to what's sure to be a lively judging process. The great thing about this Prize is that it celebrates accessibility as well as expertise, and I think my novelist's perspective will be a very useful one.”

Judge Adam Rutherford added: “Last year marked the first time a scientist joined the Man Booker judging panel, but by comparison, this Prize has a long history of inviting expertise from non-scientists. This panel has been assembled by The Royal Society precisely because we’ve all got different interests and talents – a sort of hybrid of the Bloomsbury Set and The Avengers. These books are for everyone, and it's important that we judge not just the science but also the quality, clarity and beauty of the writing.”

Chair of judges Ian Stewart said: “I’m honoured to have been chosen to chair the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books judging panel. The Prize is a marvellous way to recognise the achievements of authors who write about science for the general public, as well as emphasise the importance of public engagement with science.”


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