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Professor Haroon Ahmed publishes inspirational book for budding scientists

Apples, Apes and Atoms: Famous Cambridge Scientists is the most recent book by Life Fellow, Honorary Fellow and former Master, Professor Haroon Ahmed. Hardcover, paperback and e-book versions are available to purchase on Amazon.

The book profiles Cambridge researchers dating back to Isaac Newton in various disciplines, including Computer Science and Programming (Alan Turing, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace), Mathematics (Philippa Fawcett), Zoology (Charles Darwin), Physics (Ernest Rutherford, James Clerk Maxwell), Astronomy (the Herschels), Astrophysics (Jocelyn Bell Burnell), Medicine (Alexander Fleming and Howard Florey), Genetics (Fred Sanger, John Sulston), and more. Each profile contains a brief biographical sketch and a clear explanation of the person's research and novel discoveries, along with their College and Department affiliations, and often some of their mentors and close collaborators. Helpful diagrams accompany some of the more technical explanations of the work.

Haroon's deep familiarly with - and affection for - the history of scientific achievements at Cambridge  is evident not only in each scientist's profile, but also in the personal details about each one, as well as the legacies, large and small that can be found today across the city, from Blue Plaques to street names to laboratories that still carry their names.

Haroon Ahmed

Fittingly, the book contains a number of Corpus Old Members. Included in the profiles are Reverend Stephen Hales and former Master George Paget Thompson, a Nobel-winning physicist like his father, JJ Thompson, who is commemorated by the Blue Plaque on the Old Cavendish Laboratory on Free School Lane. (One of the many interesting nuggets of information in the book is the fact that JJ Thompson originally called the small atomic particle he discovered the 'corpuscle' but it was thereafter changed to 'electron'.)

In his introduction, Haroon explains that he was inspired to write the book through a chance encounter with a group of students visiting Cambridge University. Apples, Apes and Atoms is meant to appeal to school leavers who are considering studying science at university. As he says, "The scientists included in this book entered Cambridge University as young students unaware of their potential and went on to make outstanding scientific discoveries in their lifetime."

The volume is dedicated to physicist and Corpus Fellow Professor Mark Warner FRS, who is also profiled in the book and whose untimely death in 2021 was a great loss to the College and the physics community, as well as the programme he co-founded with Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, Isaac Physics. Current Fellow Dr Nichola Humphrey-Baker, Assistant Director of Isaac Physics, is pictured in the book with teaching materials from the program.

Haroon, who is Emeritus Professor of Microelectronics at the Cavendish Laboratory, has written previously about Cambridge scientists, in Cambridge Engineering: the first 150 years (2017), Cambridge Computing: the first 75 years (2013), Cambridge depicted: engravings, history and people (with Philip Denbigh) (2013), and has written numerous publications on electronics and engineering, starting with his PhD dissertation in 1962: Studies on high-current-density thermionic cathodes. He was Master of Corpus Christi from 2000-06. You can learn out more about Haroon and his career online at Lives Retold.

We congratulate  the former Master on this latest volume, which is sure to inspire bright and budding young scientists.