The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness

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Bodley Head, 2010 - Altruism - 451 pages
Survival of the fittest or survival of the nicest? Since the dawn of time, man has contemplated the mysteries of altruism - but it was Darwin who first posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger - evolution had borne a goodness that in theory should never exist. The quest to answer this riddle would plague scientists for decades to come. The Price of Altruism follows the incredible story of the eccentric American genius, George Price. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the depths of homelessness and despair in London, his life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin's enigma. Price's unusual scientific journey led to an all-consuming quest to crack the secrets of altruism. What he found compelled him to give away all his belongings to help others, ultimately becoming one of the vagabonds he set out to save. His tragic suicide, in a squat, alone, far away from his family, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine kindness.The story of Price's life is intricately woven into the sweeping arc of modern politics and science. From the Beagle in the southern seas to the court of the Russian Tsar to the chambers of London's Royal Society; from economics lecture halls at the University of Chicago to Senate hearing rooms on Capitol Hill; from Indiana prairies to Brazilian jungles to Jamaican mountains; First World War trenches to Vietnam demonstrations, Marxist manifestos to Anglican proclamations, Quaker pacifications to Nazi heresies. The scientific quest to fathom the mysteries of altruism invites to the stage sneaky amoebas and Russian anarchists, sentry gazelles and tyrannical despots, brain imaging, Game Theory, the Bomb and the Holy Bible. Featuring some of the most brilliant minds of the modern age, it is the continuing tale of man's search for the origins of kindness.

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User Review  - janw - LibraryThing

I like biography and at some points while reading The Price of Altruism, I found it hard to put the book down. As the book progressed it became harder to continue following Price's path of self ... Read full review

THE PRICE OF ALTRUISM: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness

User Review  - Kirkus

The strange story of an oddball scientist who developed a mathematical approach to understanding altruism.By the end of his life, George Price (1922-75), a University of Chicago doctorate in chemistry ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Oren Harman obtained a D.Phil in the History of Science from Oxford University in 2001.He is the Chair of the Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University, the author of The Man Who Invented the Chromosome, a documentary film maker, and a frequent contributor to The New Republic. He lives in Tel Aviv.

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