Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2012 winner announced7 November 2012
Thomas Wright has been announced as the winner of the £25 000 Wellcome Trust Book Prize for 'Circulation', his biography of William Harvey.
This unique prize is open to outstanding works of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health and medicine. It celebrates books that explore ideas relating to this theme and aims to stimulate interest, excitement and debate about medicine and literature, reaching audiences not normally engaged with medical science.
Set in the beating heart of late Renaissance London, this vivid and visceral book charts Harvey's obsessive quest to understand the movement of the blood, overturning beliefs held by anatomists and physicians since Roman times and causing controversy equal to that caused by Copernicus and his idea that the earth revolved around the sun. It features vivid descriptions of Harvey's renowned performances during public dissections and vivisections as part of his mission to prove his theory. The book also includes a dramatic cast of historical characters, including Francis Bacon, England's Lord Chancellor and a recalcitrant patient of Harvey's; John Donne, a poet and preacher fascinated with anatomy and the human heart; and King Charles I, Harvey's beloved patron and witness to many of his experiments.
Mark Lawson, chair of judges comments:
"The judging panel includes representatives of literature and of medicine and our hope was to find a work that met the toughest judgements in both disciplines. 'Circulation' by Thomas Wright is that book. A portrait of early medical experimentation but with strong resonances for contemporary research, it also brings innovation to the often-conventional genre of biography: dividing the chronology of William Harvey's life with thematic and historical essays. The result is a book that combines scholarly science with such narrative excitement that it will be a great surprise if we do not eventually see 'Circulation: The Movie'. The book itself deserves the widest possible circulation."
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, adds:
"Circulation is a beautifully written portrait of William Harvey, which will open his pioneering research to new audiences. Thomas Wright's book captures a moment in the history of modern medicine that excites, entertains and educates."
View our short film, created to explore 'Circulation' further
Thomas Wright is a freelance writer and researcher who lives in London and Genoa. Wright was educated at Saint Thomas More RC School, Bedford, and Magdalen College, Oxford. His first book 'Table Talk of Oscar Wilde' was chosen by Simon Callow as one of his books of the year. He proclaimed it "the closest we'll ever get to hearing the great man talk". This was followed by 'Oscar's Books' - published by Chatto in September 2008, it explores the personality of Oscar Wilde through his reading. 'Circulation' is his third book.
Mark Lawson was joined on the judging panel by Dr Brooke Magnanti, research scientist, blogger and author; Henry Thomas Marsh, a leading British neurosurgeon and pioneer of neurosurgical advances; Sue Matthias, Editor of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine and Ruth Padel, a poet, writer and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London. Find out more about the judges
The shortlisted books were:
John Coates, 'The Hour Between Dog and Wolf'
Nick Coleman, 'The Train in the Night'
Mohammed Hanif, 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti'
Peter James, 'Perfect People'
Rose Tremain, 'Merivel: A Man of his Time'
Thomas Wright, 'Circulation'
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Notes to editors
For the first time Ladbrokes has put together odds for the winner of the 2012 prize. To view the odds, please visit the Ladbrokes website.
The judges and shortlisted authors may be available for interview and can be contacted through Four Colman Getty.
About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.
About the Wellcome Trust Book Prize
The Wellcome Trust Book Prize is an annual prize of £25 000 that celebrates medicine in literature. The prize is open to books published in the UK over the period of one year, including works of fiction or non-fiction. Books published in English translation are eligible.