A Dominant Character: The Radical Science and Restless Politics of JBS Haldane

Editor | Non-fiction
When JBS Haldane died in 1964, in Bhubhaneswar, he was an Indian scientist. He had the passport, but he also had a deep and abiding love for the country. His move to India was the final act in the boisterous life of Haldane, a geneticist, a staunch Communist and an all-round rabble-rouser.
This story of a man who wrote his first scientific paper in the trenches of the First World War; who was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party; who went to Spain to fight the Fascists during the civil war; who was under heavy suspicion of being a spy for the Soviets; who courted trouble and ticked off the establishment repeatedly.
Haldane’s contributions to genetics are singular, and in tandem with his Communist beliefs, they make us think about how science and politics intersect, and how genetics continues to throw up great ethical and political conundrums today, as it did in Haldane’s time.

About the author
Samanth Subramanian is a writer and journalist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Granta, WIRED, Mint, and the Guardian. His first book, Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast, won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Andre Simon Award in 2013. His second book, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War, won the 2015 Crossword Prize for Non Fiction and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Non Fiction Prize and the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize the same year. He lives in Cambridge, England.

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