Georgina Ferry is a science writer, author and broadcaster based in Oxford. Beginning as a section editor on New Scientist magazine and a contributor to science programmes on BBC Radio, she has since been largely self-employed. Her book Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life (1998) was the first biography of Britain's only female Nobel-prizewinning scientist. Since then she has published The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome, co-authored with Sir John Sulston; A Computer Called LEO; and Max Perutz and the Secret of Life. She is a Research Associate in the Department of History at Oxford Brookes University; a Trustee of the Oxford Trust; and Writer in Residence at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in its 150th anniversary year.
Biographers naturally turn to their subjects for first-hand accounts of their life and work. The two biographical subjects I have addressed, Dorothy Hodgkin and Max Perutz, were almost exact contemporaries who worked in the same field, the X-ray crystallography of biological molecules. But their approaches to managing the narrative of their life and work were very different. Using these two examples, I reflect on the challenges facing the biographer as she attempts to produce a rounded picture of an individual scientist.
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