Author(s): Marjorie Senechal
Dorothy Wrinch, a complicated and ultimately tragic figure, is remembered today for her much publicized feud with Linus Pauling over the shape of proteins, known as "the cyclol controversy." Pauling emerged victorious and is now seen as one of the 20th century's greatest scientists. History has proven less kind to Wrinch. Although some of Wrinch's theories did not pass the test of time, her contributions to the fields of Darwinism, probability and statistics, quantum mechanics, x-ray diffraction, and computer science were anything but inconsequential. Wrinch's story is also the story of the science of crystals and the ever-changing notion of symmetry fundamental to that science. Drawing on her own personal relationship with Wrinch as well as the papers archived at Smith College and elsewhere, Marjorie Senechal explores the life of this brilliant and controversial figure in I Died for Beauty. This biography provides a coherent biographical narration, a detailed account of the cyclol controversy, and a personal memoir of the author's relationship with Wrinch. Senechal presents a sympathetic portrait of the life and science of a luminous but tragically flawed character.
It is tremendous that Senechal has excavated this story. She offers a gripping portrait of an era and of a scientist whose complications acquire a tragic glamour. It is a cautionary tale for which we must supply the moral ourselves. Philip Ball, Nature
Marjorie Senechal is the Louise Wolff Kahn Professor Emerita in Mathematics and History of Science and Technology, Smith College, and Co-Editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer
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