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Books Editorial

abunchof.jpg A Bunch of Amateurs

Andrew Waugh, self-published, £4

The comic book lends itself to charming curios more than any other medium and A Bunch of Amateurs is one of the most charming – and informative - I’ve come across in many a year. It features four gently humorous vignettes of people who have added to the weight of human knowledge solely through their amateur dabbling. So we get Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian Friar, whose experiments on pea plants led him to be dubbed “the father of modern genetics” (much to the chagrin of the other monks who fancied something else to eat other than peas). Then there’s Michael Faraday: a well-known name in science today but someone who received little formal education and taught himself while working as a bookseller. Hedy Lamarr, an actor from Hollywood’s golden age and dubbed “the most beautiful woman in Europe”, was also, with glorious improbability, partly responsible for inventing an early form of spread-spectrum communication (which laterly paved the way for wi-fi). My favourite, however, is Mary Anning. Not only did she make some of the most significant discoveries of dinosaur bones, she was also the inspiration behind the tongue-twister, “She sells sea shells”. (Seek: thismeanswaugh.com