Recorded: 09 Sep 2003
I’ve had a three year cycle. I wrote The Red Queen in ’93, Origins of Virtue in ’96, Genome in ’99, and Nature Via Nurture in 2003, well, that’s four year gap—but obviously once you’ve finished a book there’s a lot of work getting it ready for publication. This is, you know, you care about your rewrite, you check, you edit, there are translations to be dealt with etc., you know, so there’s a lot of work then. And you don’t have time to be writing another book in my experience.
And then I find that, you know, when it comes out and you have to do publicity for it, it’s hard to get down to another writing project around then. About a year after a book comes out I start to get the itch again. And, of course, there’s always four or five things which you know, you know I could write such a good book at that. But it’s not and certainly at the moment after Nature Via Nurture. I do feel that to some extent like I’ve been looking at themes of genes and enviornment from different angles now for quite a long time. The Red Queen is about that, Origins of Virtue is about that, Genome is about that, Nature Via Nurture is about that; and I’m not sure how much else there is to say on that theme. You know, I think I might have to strike out in a different direction.
I would love to be writing a much more narrative book about science. About the story of one particular person and his discoveries or something like that. But that’s very hard to fit in to a grown up lifestyle, when you've got, you know, children and families and somewhere to live. It’s the kind of thing you should do in your twenties when you can go and follow someone around or something like that. So I don’t know what comes next. I never know what comes next until it suddenly comes.
Matt Ridley is a journalist and a leading science writer. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Oxford University in 1983. He worked as a correspondent and editor for The Economist, a columnist for Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and as editor of The Best American Science Writing 2002.
His books include Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature; Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters ; Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human; and Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. His books have been short-listed for many literary awards.
He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Ridley is the honorary life president of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s park devoted to life science that he founded in 1996. He is chairman of Northern Rock plc, and other financial services firms.
In 1996, Ridley first visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and made James D. Watson’s acquaintance. In 2006 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is a visiting professor at the lab.