Most of us average, non-scientific people take for granted that memory exists, that it works, but not necessarily too well. We joke about forgetting and about aging. But Gary Lynch has never taken memory for granted: he has been working for more than 30 years to find the physiological basis for memory. Because in the scientific community, no one knows the first thing about how memory really happens in the biological sense.
We non-scientists also tend to have a bit of a stereotypical view of the eccentric, brilliant scientist — disheveled, wild-eyed, never stopping for breaks, almost crazily single-minded — and Lynch lives up to that stereotype. Terry McDermott describes him in great detail throughout 101 Theory Drive, and even among scientists, Lynch is quirky. His personality and ideas often get him into trouble, alienating him and his work from the scientific community at large, but they serve him well in the long run: it takes years, but he eventually proves that an idea he has about the mechanism for memory is very likely the right one.
McDermott very colorfully brings Lynch to life in the pages of this book: the book is not just about the actual “quest for memory,” but about the Quixote who is racing off on that crazy quest. We hear a lot from Lynch (and his colorful language), and we get a basic idea about how the search for the biological basis of memory has evolved over the past few decades. The science, of course, is quite complex, and even though McDermott simplifies the explanations, it takes some concentration to grasp the concepts. But concentrating pays off because the (constantly evolving) science is fascinating. And when Lynch succeeds in his quest, understanding at least on a basic level just what he has done is satisfying for the lay reader.
101 Theory Drive is an interesting window into both a cutting-edge science and the people who are making it happen.
Rated: High, for language. Lynch is quoted often, and his own words are full of strong language. There are about 30 uses of strong language, as well as other occasions of mild and moderate language.