* That question has been asked for many centuries, and has produced recipes ranging from the homunculus of the medieval alchemists and the clay golem of Jewish legend to Frankenstein's monster and the mass-produced test-tube babies in Brave New World.
* All of these efforts to create artificial people are more or less fanciful, but they have taken deep root in Western culture. They all express fears about the allegedly treacherous, Faustian nature of technology, and they all question whether any artificially created person can be truly human. Legends of people-making are tainted by suspicions of impiety and hubris, and they are regarded as the ultimate 'unnatural' act - a moral judgement that has its origins in religious thought.
* In this fascinating and highly topical study, Philip Ball delves beneath the surface of the cultural history of 'anthropoeia' - the creation of artificial people - to explore what it tells us about our views on life, humanity, creativity and technology, and the soul. From the legendary inventor Daedalus to Goethe's tragic Faust, from the automata-making magicians of E.T.A Hoffmann to Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein - the old tales and myths are alive and well, subtly manipulating the current debates about assisted conception, embryo research and human cloning, which have at last made the fantasy of 'making people' into some kind of reality.
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A brave, sane and intellectually nimble account of a topic which only gets more ambiguous with each scientific advance. Unnatural is fascinating and engaging, and a polemic only for cool heads and open hearts when dealing with issues of such serious and profound complexity - Scotland on Sunday
This is a fascinating book - Evening Standard
Unnatural is a beautifully-written, deeply-intelligent book that will force every reader to rethink at least some of their preconceptions - Sunday Telegraph
Ball's thoughtful book is a reminder that as we try and deal with how to enable and assist people into being, we need to understand and then conquer our fears surrounding the very idea of making people - Guardian
Meticulous, witty and sometimes provocative - Sunday Times
Ball's assiduously science-literature approach is very welcome - The Word
The two cultures of science and art are not antagonists, divergent in their aims and mutually unintelligible: they happily cohabit inside Ball's compendious, eclectic head - Observer
Labelling Ball a science writer sells his writing short, for its value lies above all in a range that dissolves the awkward silences between science and the larger culture of which it is part. - Independent
If Ball's book is an entertaining romp across centuries and genres, it also has a target...What Ball does so effectively...is to show why language and stories matter- in effect, why humanities matter - TLS
Philip Ball is a writer and contributor to Nature, where he previously worked as an editor for physical sciences. He writes regularly in the scientific and popular media, often combining the arenas of science and art, and delivers lectures with equal success at NASA and the V&A Museum. His many books include The Self-Made Tapestry, H2O: A Biography of Water, The Devil's Doctor, Critical Mass (winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books), Universe of Stone, Nature's Patterns and, most recently, the acclaimed The Music Instinct. Philip obtained a PhD in physics from the University of Bristol.