Notes of a Biology Watcher Box Set: The Lives of a Cell & the Medusa and the Snail

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Very Good
Paperback, 328 pages
Vikings Press, Inc., 1974 & 1979
First Edition

This Lewis Thomas box set contains a collection of his essays from the award-winning The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974) and The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979) both published by Viking Press.

The Lives of a Cell: Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things. Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine. Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us."

The Medusa and the Snail: The medusa is a tiny jellyfish that lives on the ventral surface of a sea slug found in the Bay of Naples. Readers will find themselves caught up in the fate of the medusa and the snail as a metaphor for eternal issues of life and death as Lewis Thomas further extends the exploration of man and his world begun in The Lives of a Cell. Among the treasures in this magnificent book are essays on the human genius for making mistakes, on disease and natural death, on cloning, on warts, and on Montaigne, as well as an assessment of medical science and health care. In these essays and others, Thomas once again conveys his observations of the scientific world in prose marked by wonder and wit.

Editorial Review(s)

"How to praise Dr. Thomas most accurately? One wonders. A reviewer who concentrates upon Dr, Thomas's effortless, beautifully‐toned style, even to the point of claiming that many of the 29 essays in this book are masterpieces of the “art of the essay,” would direct attention away from the sheer amount of scientific information these slender essays contain. A reviewer who deals with the book as “science” would be forced, by Dr. Thomag's marvelous use of paradox, to admit that the book might not yield its wisdom at a single reading. But since it is Dr. Thomas's underlying thesis that divisions are really illusory and that “our most powerful story, equivalent in its way to a universal myth, is evolution,” one might as well rise to the higher speculation that “The Lives of a Cell” anticipates the kind of writing that will appear more and more frequently, as scientists take on the language of poetry in order to communicate human truths too mysterious for old‐fashioned common sense....

"Undogmatic, graceful, gently persuasive, these essays insist upon the interrelatedness of all life." --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Lewis Thomas was a physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, administrator, educator, policy advisor, and researcher. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School, he was the dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. He wrote regularly in the New England Journal of Medicine, and his essays were published in several collections, including The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, which won two National Book Awards and a Christopher Award, and The Medusa and the Snail, which won the National Book Award in Science. He died in 1993.