The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books has crowned its first ever female solo winner in Gaia Vince for her close-up look at pressing ecological issues facing the planet.
Vince’s Adventures in the Anthropocene (Chatto & Windus) was given the £25,000 science prize at a ceremony hosted by Professor Brian Cox OBE, at a ceremony tonight (24th September), fending off competition from five other shortlisted titles.
Her book explores the most pressing ecological issues facing the planet, and the people who are using science to solve them.
Vince is the first woman to win the prize as a sole author in its 28-year history – Pat Shipman co-authored winning book The Wisdom of Bones with Alan Walker in 1997.
The judges were impressed that Vince quit her job to tour the world in 800 days collecting evidence for her book.
Chair of judges Ian Stewart said: “This is an underreported area of science and a truly original story. We were all humbled by Vince’s commitment to this book – she quit her job and spent 800 days on the global road to gather her evidence. She has captured the issue of the day in a way that is ultimately empowering without ever being complacent. We are very proud to recognise this ambitious and essential work.”
Judge and novelist Sarah Waters called the book “an inspiring testament to human ingenuity.”
Adventures in the Anthropocene explores how the earth has been drastically affected by humans, but also the ways in which science and engineering are providing solutions, from islands built out of rubbish to artificial glaciers. Vince’s research from around the world illustrates the increasingly popular argument that, due to human activity over just a couple of centuries, we have altered the planet so much that our geological period, the Jurassic, has rapidly changed. She argues we are entering into a distinctly new age, the Anthropocene.
The other shortlisted titles included Life’s Greatest Secret (Profile), Smashing Physics by John Butterworth (Headline), David Adam’s The Man Who Couldn’t Stop (Picador), Alex Through the Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life by Alex Bellos (Bloomsbury), and Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe Mcfadden and Professor Jim Al-Khalili (Bantam Press).
In his speech, Professor Cox urged everyone to read the shortlisted titles, warning that Britain is facing an “urgent scientific illiteracy problem”.
He said: “But I believe that popular science books can begin to bridge this gap. I urge everyone in the country to pick up at least one of these six breathtakingly entertaining and mind-expanding books and gain a fresh appreciation for the stories that science can tell.”