Pan Mac and Flatiron pre-empt on Ockham's Razor study

Pan Mac and Flatiron pre-empt on Ockham's Razor study

Pan Macmillan and Flatiron Books have jointly acquired a "major" new book by Professor Johnjoe McFadden after pre-empting world English rights in Life is Simple: Ockham’s Razor and the Triumph of Simplicity.

The proposal for the new popular science book was said to have caused "an immediate stir", with offers received from America, a building UK auction and wide translation interest. After submission on the eve of the London Book Fair, Jamie Coleman at Pan Macmillan teamed up with Macmillan group colleague, Colin Dickerman at Flatiron Books in New York, to jointly table a strong six-figure sterling offer with a cut-off point – for acceptance or withdrawal – of midnight on the Wednesday (13th April). After difficulties for the author with a delayed flight, the offer was accepted at one minute to midnight, in a deal done through Patrick Walsh of Conville & Walsh.

Life is Simple explores the story of William of Ockham, the 14th century British monk and thinker primarily known for a tool of logic known as "Ockham’s Razor". It argued that, when confronted with competing explanations for a problem, the simpler is always correct. The book will examine Ockham’s simplicity theory as "one of science’s most important tools", tracking its application through fields including genetics and particle physics, and its "vital" role in engineering, architecture, music and art.

Acquiring editor in the UK, Jamie Coleman said: “As we closed the deal at one minute to midnight, just over 50 hours after first receiving the submission, I decided to apply Ockham’s razor to what had just happened: the simplest explanation for how quickly the entire company on both sides of the Atlantic had read and responded to this proposal was that it was utterly brilliant. It’s the sort of biggest of big ideas' science, mixed with history that captures readers’ imaginations and in Johnjoe McFadden we have an author who can tell the fascinating story of Ockham and simplicity throughout the history of science with the elegance it deserves.”   

Acquiring editor in the US, Colin Dickerman called it a "provocative" premise for a book, adding: “Any book that begins with a 14th-century Franciscan monk and ends up positing a new theory about the creation of our universe is, by nature, bold.”

McFadden is professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey. He is an active populariser of science, having written popular science books and regular newspaper articles on topic, spanning quantum mechanics, evolution and GM crops. Life is Simple is his third popular science book.

His most recent book, co-authored with Jim Al-Khalili, Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology (Bantam Press), has been translated into 17 languages, and shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Winton Science Book of the year prize in 2015.