Lovelock & Gaia


A short book in which I tell the story of James Lovelock, Gaia theory, and its reception and influence. It came out from Icon Books in 2003, and from Columbia University Press in the US the following year. Out of date now – in the sense that Gaia’s scientific offshoots in Earth system sciences have moved on – but still an effective summary of how things went in this fascinating scientific discussion until then, I think.

For my money, Lovelock is one of the two most interesting Englishmen of the second half of the twentieth century (the other is Francis Crick). He’s also much harder to pin down, and propounded a theory which, in its strongest versions, is wrong. But still hugely influential…


“Turney’s writing is beautifully clear and maintains an admirable objectivity… The result is never less than absorbing.” New Scientist

“a detailed account of a novel theory and its maverick originator, contributing to the annals of environmental thought and the history of ideas.” Booklist

“An excellent little book”. Brian Clegg, Popular Science website



Ethical Debates about the Application of Science

A little book intended for schools. An interesting challenge to write about social and ethical issues in science and technology for 12-15 year-olds (I think it was).

Science, Not Art

science not art

Now this was a great project, set up by the Gulbenkian Foundation. Ten scientists’ diaries, commissioned with a view to showing something of the process of scientific work. Worked rather well, it seemed, and featured as a Radio 4 Book of the Week back in 2003. It includes a few people who are a bit famous now (Hi, Kevin).

One day, I’ll put together that anthology of writing about scientific work I’ve often made in my head. Until then, this’ll do. It has great photos by Hugo Glendinning, too.


“These humorous and revealing diaries show scientists with hobbies, passions and quirks just like the rest of us.” Steven Poole, The Guardian

“This fascinating little volume sets out to provide a sense of science’s daily processes … The result is exhilarating.” Lisa Appignanesi, The Independent

‘Anyone considering a career in something scientific should probably read it.’ Focus

A Quark for Mister Mark


One of my favourites. This anthology, which came out from Faber in 2001, was a pet project of mine and Maurice Riordan’s for years, which they finally agreed to let us do. The cover looks like  this, and not the one which has strayed onto Amazon and other sites by P2C2E (see Haroun and the Sea of Stories for expansion of the acronym). It’s still in print, hurrah!

Maurice is the actual poet, and is now a creative writing prof at Sheffield Hallam and editor of Poetry review. His own latest collection The Water Stealer, just out – is astoundingly good. Me, I still read poetry a good deal but just write about the science.

The Rough Guide to Genes & Cloning


My first Rough Guide, in 2007. Co-written with Dr Jess Buxton, geneticist, science writer and wonderwoman. It was a lot of fun exploiting the Rough Guide format to incorporate lots of history and culture along with the science. Known to my daughters, for reasons only they can explain, as The Rough Guide to Jeans and Clothing – their cover design was different, too…


“interesting and informative… A good read.” Nature Cell Biology

“The Rough Guides Technique for unfamiliar lands applied to unfamiliar subjects.”
Scientific American