What We Are Reading Today: Genetics in the Madhouse

Updated 30 July 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Genetics in the Madhouse

In this compelling book, Genetics in the Madhouse, author Theodore Porter draws on untapped archival evidence from across Europe and North America to bring to light the hidden history behind modern genetics.

“Porter’s masterful book casts the fresh light of sanity over a previously uncharted sea of data on madness,” Stephen M. Stigler, author of The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom, said in remarks published in the Princeton University Press website.

“Porter brings analytical order to an intriguingly chaotic subject, illuminating the challenges of ‘big data’ from a past era when the plasticity of categorization resulted in data being deduced from conclusions, a problem with uncanny similarities to those we face today,” added Stigler.

Porter is Distinguished Professor of History and holds the Peter Reill Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.  His books include Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life, and The Rise of Statistical Thinking, 1820–1900 (all Princeton). 

Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity, commented: “The book is a fascinating exploration of the long-running conviction that madness, criminality, and other mental traits can be passed down from parent to child.”


What We Are Reading Today: Texas Flood

Updated 10 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Texas Flood

AUTHORS: Alan Paul & Andy Aledort

Texas Flood by Alan Paul and Andy Aledort is a phenomenal biography of guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan that hits on every level, including interviews with those closest to him.

A review in The New York Times said: “An oral history is only as good as its sources, and Texas Flood is thorough and far-reaching, with Vaughan’s bandmates, crew and family taking center stage.”  It added: “Especially fascinating is Vaughan’s complicated relationship with his older brother, Jimmie,  and Vaughan’s ill-fated role in David Bowie’s band, an apparent big break that he quit because he was told he could not promote his debut album.”

The review said: “If there’s a disappointment in the book, it’s the lack of Vaughan’s own voice. Aledort interviewed him several times during his lifetime, but since those conversations were focused on specific projects, the quotes pulled for Texas Flood don’t leave much impression. Both authors are accomplished musicians and longtime contributors to Guitar World magazine, so occasionally things get a little gear-heavy.”