In An Appetite for Wonder Richard Dawkins brought us his engaging memoir of the first 35 years of his life from early childhood in Africa to publication of The Selfish Gene in 1976, when he shot to fame as one of the most exciting new scientists of his generation. In Brief Candle in the Dark he continues his autobiography, following the threads that have run through the second half of his life so far and homing in on the key individuals, institutions and ideas that inspired and motivated him.
He paints a vivid picture, coloured with wit, anecdote and digression, of the twenty-five postgraduate years he spent teaching at Oxford. He pays affectionate tribute to past colleagues and students, recalling with characteristic wry humour the idiosyncrasies of an establishment steeped in ancient tradition and arcane ritual while also recording his respect for the profound commitment to learning and discovery that lies at its core. He invites us to share the life of a travelling scientist, from fieldwork on the Panama Canal to conferences of stratospheric eminence in exotic locations in the company of some of the most prominent – and some of the most eccentric – of the world’s scientific luminaries. And he describes his experiences with his many publishers, television producers, interviewers and partners in debate, not least in the heady period when, after publication of The God Delusion in 2006, he is dubbed the world’s most outspoken and controversial atheist.