|Photo: Royal Society|
So, what were his great ideas? Well: The Cell, The Gene, Evolution by Natural Selection, Life as Chemistry (and Physics) and the fifth, possibly contentious one, Biology as an Organized System, by which he meant looking at the biological networks and how they are structured, looking at the flow of "information", at the system as an information carrier.
The Guardian). The Poetry Foundation gives us his poem, The Botanic Garden, and here is an excerpt:
“You taught mysterious Bacon to exploreMetallic veins, and part the dross from ore;With sylvan coal in whirling mills combineThe crystal’d nitre, and the sulphurous mine;Through wiry nets the black diffusion strain,And close an airy ocean in a grain.—Pent in dark chambers of cylindric brass,Slumbers in grim repose the sooty mass;Lit by the brilliant spark, from grain to grainRuns the quick fire along the kindling train;On the pain’d ear-drum bursts the sudden crashStarts the red-flame, and death pursues the flash.—Fear’s feeble hand directs the fiery darts,And strength and courage yield to chemic arts;Guilt with pale brow the mimic thunder owns,And tyrants tremble on their blood-stain’d thrones.
Stirring stuff! Now the poets I went to see after this lecture, Luke Kennard and Tom Philips, did not deal directly with biology but I feel that Erasmus D would have enjoyed the evening, which moved from a searing critique/love poem about Portishead to a tale of the Murderer being taken for a haircut. I was immensely impressed by the whole event, organised monthly by Word of Mouth - highly recommended if you are in the vicinity!
So, an evening of poetry, biology and biological poetry, what more could I have wanted?