The Whats of a Scientific Life: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Whats of a Scientific Life

1st Edition

By John R. Helliwell

CRC Press

128 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367233020
pub: 2019-11-07
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This book completes a scientific life trilogy of books following on from the Hows (i.e. skills) and the Whys is now the Whats of a scientific life. Starting with just what is science, then on to what is physics, what is chemistry and what is biologythe book discusses career situations in terms of types of obstacles faced. There follow examples of what science has achieved as well as plans and opportunities. The contexts for science are dependencies of science on mathematics, how science cuts across disciplines, and the importance of engineering and computer software. What science is as a process is that it is distinctly successful in avoiding or dealing with failures. Most recently a radical change in what is science is the merger of the International Council of Scientific Unions and the International Social Sciences Council.

Key Features:

  • Dissects what is science and its contexts
  • Provides wide ranging case studies of science and discovery based directly on the author’s many decades in science
  • The author has outstanding experience in mentoring and career development, and also in outreach activities for the public and students of all ages
  • The world of science today involves a merger of ‘the sciences’ and the ‘social sciences’

Table of Contents


Series Preface



About the Author

Part I Introduction

1. What is the Scientific Life

1.1 Scientific objectivity, truth and certainty

1.2 Ethics

1.3 Some practicalities day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month and year-to-year

2. What is physics?

3. What is chemistry?

4. What is biology?

Part II Scientific career choices; What to do when faced with

5. Junctions

6. Crossroads

7. Roundabouts

8. Traffic Lights

9. Obstacles

10. Mountains

Part III: Examples of what science delivers or will deliver in the future

11. With physics we can see atoms

12. Acceleration of chemical reactions by catalysts, a wonder of the natural world

13. Understanding colour; e.g. camouflage, clothes, cosmetics and paintings

14. The Universe exists and the big bang ‘start’ of the Universe; the ‘red shift’ and the expansion of the Universe

15. Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? The role of the Square Kilometre Array radio astronomy project

16. Predicting climate change on Earth

Part IV Science and Mathematics, Across the Disciplines and Side by Side with Engineering

17. Science and Mathematics: Newtonian dynamics and molecular dynamics

18. Science across the disciplines: Curiosity respects no science subject boundaries

19. Science Side by Side with Engineering

Part V Science is a process

20. Successes Involve Striving to Avoid Failures in Science

Part VI A trend; the coming together of science and social science

21. The International Council for Science, a very important event


A1 The Social Function of Science, by J. D. Bernal

A2 The Effective Scientist, by Corey J. A. Bradshaw

A3 Scientific Leadership, by J. W. (Hans) Niemantsverdriet and Jan-Karel Felderhof

A4 Managing Science: Developing your Research, Leadership and Management Skills, by K. Peach

A5 Writing Chemistry Patents and Intellectual Property: a Practical Guide, by Francis J. Waller

A6 The Scientific Method: Reflections from a Practitioner, by M. di Ventra.

About the Author

John R. Helliwell is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of Manchester. He was Director of Synchrotron Radiation Science at the Council for the Central Laboratories of the Research Councils (CCLRC). Professor Helliwell has served as President of the European Crystallographic Association (ECA). He was awarded a DSc degree in physics from the University of York in 1996 and a DPhil in molecular biophysics from the University of Oxford in 1978. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Biology, and the American Crystallographic Association. He is an Emeritus Member of the Biochemical Society. In 1997, he was made an Honorary Member of the National Institute of Chemistry, Slovenia. In 2000 he was awarded the Professor K Banerjee Centennial Silver Medal by the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Calcutta, India. In 2015 he was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona, Spain. He was made an Honorary Member of the British Biophysical Society in 2017. The same year, he became a Faculty 1000 Member, charged with highlighting significant science publications. He was elected an Honorary Life Member of the British Crystallographic Association in 2019. He was a Lonsdale Lecturer of the British Crystallographic Association in 2011, the Patterson Prize Awardee of the American Crystallographic Association in 2014, and the Max Perutz Prize Awardee of the European Crystallographic Association in 2015. Professor Helliwell has published more than 200 research publications and two research monographs. He has held leading roles within the International Union of Crystallography, most recently as Chairman of its Committee on Data and Chairman of its Book Series. He has chaired various science advisory committees at synchrotron X-ray and neutron facilities around the world including in France, Spain, Japan, the USA, Australia and Sweden.

About the Series

Global Science Education

Learning about the scientific education systems in the global context is of utmost importance now for two reasons. Firstly, the academic community is now international. It is no longer limited to top universities, as the mobility of staff and students is very common even in remote places. Secondly, education systems need to continually evolve in order to cope with the market demand. Contrary to the past when the pioneering countries were the most innovative ones, now emerging economies are more eager to push the boundaries of innovative education. Here, an overall picture of the whole field is provided. Moreover, the entire collection is indeed an encyclopedia of science education, and can be used as a resource for global education.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MEDICAL / General
MEDICAL / Administration
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Physics