The Canon

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This article is about the science book by Natalie Angier. For the general concept of a core set of texts representing Western civilization, see Western canon.
The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science
The Canon.jpg
Author Natalie Angier
Language English
Publisher Houghton Mifflin / Mariner Books
Publication date
2007 / 2008
Media type Hardcover / Paperback
ISBN ISBN 978-0-618-24295-5 / ISBN 978-0-547-05346-2
LC Class Q162 .A59 2007
Preceded by Woman: An Intimate Geography

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science is a book written by American science author Natalie Angier.


The Canon presents a summary of some of the different areas of science, as well as extensive descriptions of, and interviews with, contemporary scientists who work in these fields. Angier’s tenet is that an understanding of the basics of major areas of science can assist with providing a means by which to understand current scientific issues, and that this process should be fun. In her Introduction, Angier writes:

In The Canon, Angier weaves the words provided to her by the scientists she interviewed throughout her descriptions of such things as how atoms work, why there are chemical reactions and how they occur, how the cells in our bodies and the DNA contained within those cells are structured and function, how the planet Earth is constructed, and what we currently know about the vastness of the universe. Through the lens of these various scientists, we can start to know more about how scientists experience their work, how they think about it, and why they do what they do.


  • Introduction: Sisyphus Sings with a Ying
  1. Thinking Scientifically: An Out-of-Body Experience
  2. Probabilities: For Whom the Bell Curves
  3. Calibration: Playing with Scales
  4. Physics: And Nothing's Plenty for Me
  5. Chemistry: Fire, Ice, Spies, and Life
  6. Evolutionary Biology: The Theory of Every Body
  7. Molecular Biology: Cells and Whistles
  8. Geology: Imagining World Pieces
  9. Astronomy: Heavenly Creature
  • References
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

See Also - Scientists Interviewed[edit]

To obtain material for The Canon, Angier interviewed a number of scientists, professors, and other science professionals, and incorporated their stories and quotes into her work. She asked them questions such as, "What does it mean to think scientifically?" and "What should nonspecialist nonchildren know about science, and how should they know it, and what is this thing called fun?" Most of these scientists are presently active in their field of research. In addition, many of these scientists have extensive bodies of work listed in detail elsewhere. The below list links the science professionals who Angier interviewed for The Canon with additional details relating to their work:

External links[edit]