Egg and Ego is a book aimed at a general audience of student biologists. It is part a personal account of Jonathan Slack's own life in science (specifically developmental biology),and part an entertaining description and discussion of what it is like to a professional biologist. This superbly written book provides an intriguing (and often amusing) account of what exactly cellular and molecular biologists do in their jobs.
1. The Experiment.- What we did in the slaughterhouse, and afterwards.- 2. The Greasy Pole.- How I got up it myself.- 3. The Growth Factors.- The most expensive substances in the world. Postscript: Molecular Biology, BC and AC.- 4. On the Catwalk: Publication and Presentation.- What scientists and actors have in common.- 5. The Frog and Its Spawn.- From pregnancy test to the cover ofCell..- 6. Who's Who in the Lab.- From the candidate to the chairman, who they are, what they do, and why.- 7. Laboratory Life and Death.- Radiation, genetic engineering, animals, computers, technology transfer.- 8. The Ground Plan of Evolution.- Why all animals are really the same.- 9. Paying for It All.- Where satisfaction means unending exponential growth.- 10. The Case of the Headless Frog.- Science and the media.- Epilogue.
Egg and Ego is a lighthearted look at the nature of academic science. It is intended for anyone interested in biology but particularly for biology students who want to find out what is in store for them in the future. It starts with an account of one particular experiment, which is later opened out to introduce the excitement arising from recent progress in associated areas of biology. It then describes the everyday aspects of scientific work, ignored by philosophers of science. These range from cleaning up radioactive contamination, to how to fill in biohazard forms, to how newly appointed professors bargain for money. The "Egg" of the title refers to the science of developmental biology, which is the specialty of the author, and which provides the material for many of the anecdotes. The "Ego" relates to the vanity of the scientists themselves. Academic scientists have to struggle to maintain their research funding. To do this they must persuade other scientists that they are very good, and that means work at a good institution, publishing papers in the most fashionable journals and giving lectures at the most prestigious meetings. Success often goes to those with the largest egos and their style of operation is described in this book. The final chapter is about relations between science and the outside world in the shape of the media, illustrated by the remarkable "case of the headless frog". The author is a well-known scientist who has worked at both universities and research institutes. He has published over 100 scientific papers and an influential book about embryonic development: "From Egg to Embryo".