Rondebosch prof’s book explores wonders of science

Professor Mike Bruton and his dog, Saluki.

There is no slowing down for retired Rondebosch scientist Professor Mike Bruton, whose latest book, Curious Notions, was released last month.

It’s a collection of essays on a diverse range of scientific topics, ranging from creativity in the arts and sciences to the evolution and impact of the bicycle. You can read about African Nobel Peace Prize winners; South Africa’s greatest inventors; and the “living fossil” fish, the coelacanth.

This is the eighth scientific book published by the award-winning scientist in the past six years.

Professor Bruton, 74, is concerned that science is under attack today from pseudo-science and anti-science campaigns, which are fuelled by the unprecedented exposure social media gives to the views of fringe groups.

He says science is more important today than ever before as it is a vital tool that we need to solve the many problems that confront humankind and the other inhabitants of the planet.

“I therefore believe that it is very important that scientists, including retired scientists like myself, should publish books that demystify science and make it more accessible to the general public.”

He conceptualised the idea for the book over the past 10 years, although the actual writing took nine months.

After a 50-year career as an ichthyologist, Professor Bruton still keeps busy during retirement. “I have been very productive during the pandemic,” he says. “I have written and published the Curious Notions book and also completed another book, entitled Harambee: The spirit of innovation in Africa, which will be published by the Human Sciences Research Council later this year.”

But, like many, he has also had to deal with the impact of the lockdown. “Almost all my live talks have been cancelled or postponed as have excursions to various places of scientific interest during which I was due to give talks,” he says.

Lockdown hasn’t dampened his curiosity and inquisitiveness in the scientific world. “I read very widely, and I am in touch by email with a wide variety of scientists, inventors and science educators worldwide,” he says.

Professor Bruton has already started working on his next book, which is based on his experience of establishing and operating science museums in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

To get a copy of Curious Notions, contact Professor Bruton at 083 212 7609 or 021 685 6925 or his publisher, David Hilton-Barber, of Footprint Press, at david@footprintpress.co.za. The book will also be available at major book retailers from the middle of July.

The cover of Curious Notions.