James Gleick’s The Information is the winner of the 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. Published  by Fourth Estate, it tells the story of information and how humanity uses, transmits and stores it.

Upon receiving the award, James Gleick said: “This is a very unexpected surprise. I am not a scientist, but I have my nose pressed against the glass. I visited the Royal Society 12 years ago to research a biography of Isaac Newton. It is a pleasure to be back again.”

The £10,000 prize was awarded to James Gleick by Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society at a ceremony at the Society.  The book saw off strong competition from a heavyweight shortlist, including Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature and Nathan Wolfe’s The Viral Storm.

Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS, Chair of the judges, said: “The Information is an ambitious and insightful book that takes us, with verve and fizz, on a journey from African drums to computers, throwing in generous helpings of evidence and examples along the way.  It is one of those very rare books that provide a completely new framework for understanding the world around us. It was a privilege to read.”

The six shortlisted books were:

  • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
  • My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank, published by Oneworld
  • The Information by James Gleick, published by Fourth Estate
  • The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)
  • The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe, published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books)

The shortlisted authors were each awarded £1,000 and the winner £10,000.  The first chapter of each book is available to download for free at: royalsociety.org/awards/science-books/shortlist/.

The judges on this year’s judging panel are Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE FRS, Visiting Professor in Astrophysics, University of Oxford (Chair); Jasper Fforde, author; Tania Hershman, author; Kim Shillinglaw, BBC Commissioning Editor for Science and Natural History and Dr Samuel Turvey, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology.

The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books is the leading award for popular science writing. Books shortlisted for the award are accessible, interesting and compelling accounts of the world around us or inside us. Commencing last year, the global investment management company Winton Capital Management agreed a five year sponsorship deal of the prize.

David Harding, Founder and Chairman of Winton Capital Management said:  “Congratulations to James Gleick on winning this year’s Royal Society Winton Prize, a worthy winner in a strong field. As a 21st century scientific research company Winton is working at the heart of exploring Big Data. The Information is an erudite, superbly researched, account of how humans have learned to transmit information and created a world where research such as ours is not just possible but can flourish.”

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