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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK
Electric book wins science prize
By Rebecca Morelle
BBC News science reporter

David Bodanis (VisMedia)
Mr Bodanis said winning was a genuine surprise
A book that details the discovery of electricity and how it has changed our lives has scooped this year's Aventis Prize for popular science writing.

The book, Electric Universe - How Electricity Switched on the Modern World, was penned by David Bodanis.

The social science lecturer had been strongly tipped in advance to take the prize, which is now in its 19th year.

Mr Bodanis was presented with a 10,000 cheque at a gala dinner at the Royal Society in London.

He can look forward to a reward in bookshops, too - the Aventis Prize usually guarantees a huge surge in sales.

Born in Chicago, Mr Bodanis has spent much of his adult life living in France and England. He has authored several books, including best-seller E=mc2, the story of Einstein and his famous equation.

"It's such a treat to win - it is a genuine surprise," he told the BBC News website.

"Many people take electricity for granted, but there's electricity everywhere: there's electricity in our brains; there's electricity in our planet; there's electricity powering our civilisation; the Sun burns by electricity.

"With the book, I wanted to open up the door and show what's actually there."

'Technological odyssey'

Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, who sat on the judging panel, said: "This is a science book for the people."

The renowned science communicator Simon Singh called the book: "A technological odyssey complete with heroes and villains, triumph and tragedy - a true scientific adventure."

Parallel Worlds
Electric Universe "reads like a novel"
BBC TV presenter Nick Ross chaired the judges. He said: "This book is wonderfully accessible - it's a huge canvas but it reads like a novel, with twists and turns that would make a fiction writer happy to have been so inventive; and opens up a universe of facts that would scarcely be credible in an imaginary tale.

"It's simply a very good read and if you have little or no interest in electricity, after reading this you will have."

The year's Aventis Prize for a book aimed at children under 14 went to The Global Garden, by Kate Petty, Jennie Maizels and Corina Fletcher.

The pop-up book is a guide to the natural world, and gives children the knowledge to explore the environment and helps them to understand how humans make use of plants.

Kate Petty said: "We are thrilled to bits. The book was inspired by the Eden Project, which is all about teaching children how we need to look after plants and how plants can look after us."

This is the last year that the Aventis Foundation is to be involved in the book prizes. The Royal Society, which manages the awards, is now seeking a new sponsor.

Last year's General Prize was won by Philip Ball for his book Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another. Other past winners have included Bill Bryson, Stephen Hawking and Chris McManus.

The full shortlist for the 2006 Aventis General Prize:

Electric Universe - How Electricity Switched on the Modern World, by David Bodanis (Little Brown)

Power, Sex, Suicide - Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, by Nick Lane (Oxford University Press)

Empire of the Stars - Friendship, Obsession and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes, by Arthur I Miller (Little Brown)

Collapse - How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, by Jared Diamond (Penguin Allen Lane)

Parallel Worlds - The Science of Alternative Universes and our Future in the Cosmos, by Michio Kaku (Penguin)

The Truth About Hormones - What's Going on when We're Tetchy, Spotty, Fearful, Tearful or Just Plain Awful, by Vivienne Parry (Atlantic Books)

The Global Garden (Eden Project)
The Junior Prize winner was chosen by children
The shortlisted books for the 2006 Junior Prize:

Global Garden, by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels (Eden Project)

100 Science Experiments, by Georgina Andrews and Kate Knighton (Usborne Publishing)

Think of a Number, by Johnny Ball (Dorling Kindersley)

It's True! Squids Suck, by Nicki Greenberg (Allen and Unwin)

Blame My Brain, by Nicola Morgan (Walker Books)

Kingfisher Knowledge: Forensics, by Richard Platt (Kingfisher Publications)

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