This is part autobiography and part history
of Richard Dawkins progenitors. Various members of previous generations of Dawkins had
served the British Empire. Two generations served as foresters. A similar amount of
colonial activity was undertaken by his maternal ancestors. The Dawkins also made a habit
of attending Balliol College, and having, though not using the first name of Clinton.
Dawkins admits his birth name is Clinton Richard Dawkins, and he was born in Kenya because
his mother followed her husband there from Nyasaland (Malawi) when Dawkins pere
was posted there during World War 2.
Richard Dawkins was not drawn to zoology, as several early incidents of
his life indicate. However, he fell into once he arrived at Balliol, having been talked
out of reading biochemistry instead. He charts his progression through the British
academic world with candour, and shows great respect for the various people who mentored
him on the way. Dawkins was not only fascinated by zoology, once he got underway, but by
automated data collection and processing. Anecdotes about this take up more space than the
discussion about the genesis and publication of his first book, The Selfish
Gene. He also explains the development of his gene-centred view of
evolution, for which he is famous throughout the wider science of biology.
Dawkins writes with affection, humour and modesty. This is not a boastful
work showcasing how great Dawkins is. Nor does he push his atheism. Instead, he explains
all the influences on his life, finding inspiration in the dedication of others. At
approximately 300pages, it is an easy read, with nicely structured chapters and a
collection of photographs showing both early family life and other actors in his story.
Because this memoir is not only about him, its about his family and his academic
I would recommend this book for those not only wanting to know more about
Richard Dawkins, but also about the collegial nature of university research.