Some title will go here Joanna Short Glassboro High SchoolAbstractThis essay will explore how effective the writing techniques are in the book, The Lives of a Cell.
This will begin with a brief biography of the author, Lewis Thomas. The essay will also touch on what tools the author used in order to make the book successful. There will be a close-text analysis on what was most effective, and what could have been done better.
Biography Lewis Thomas was an American physician, poet, educator, author, and more. Thomas was born on November 25th, 1913 in New York City. Thomas’s father was a physician, and in his youth he would accompany his father on rounds. Due to the exposure of what being a doctor is like, Thomas was able to decide at an early age that he would either want to be a doctor or a writer. Lewis Thomas attended the McBurney School in Manhattan, and graduated at the age of fifteen. In order to obtain his education, Thomas studied at Biology at Princeton University, and later earned his medical degree from Harvard.
He grew up during the time of the Great Depression, and knew that going to medical school would be a way to avoid unemployment. After earning his medical degree Thomas went on to join the Navy Medical Corps. Thomas spent most of his career in research at the Rockefeller Institute. He also, spent a lot of time in administration. He served as the dean of New York University School of Medicine from 1966 until 1969, and then at Yale School of Medicine from 1972 to 1973. After that, Thomas was president of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Lewis Thomas, was not really known for being a writer until his fifties, when he became a successful essayist. Thomas’s essays “Notes of a Biology Walker,” were published bimonthly in the New England Journal of Medicine. Elisabeth Sifton, an editor at Viking Press collected Thomas’s essay into the bestselling book, The Lives of a Cell. Among many other things, Lewis Thomas was also a scientist. Lewis Thomas’s most famous discovery was when he injected rabbits with papain, a proteolytic enzyme, and found that when the rabbits were injected with it their ears were droopy. In his later life, Thomas won many awards for his outstanding scientific and administrative work. He even had two awards named after him.
In 1993, Lewis Thomas died of a rare lymphoma-like cancer called, Waldenstrom’s disease. Author’s Rhetoric The Lives of a Cell is composed of twenty-nine short essays that relate to science, and are basically just Lewis Thomas’s notes throughout the years of observing biology. The essays are not all the same, for there is a diversity of topics mentioned throughout. All of the essays have a similar structure, and share the same general idea of biology.
Each essay begins with Thomas introducing a problem, and then summarizing all of the known facts about the problem. The essays tend to end with Thomas providing a theory to what may solve, or at least improve the identified problem. This book is directed at anyone who would be interested in learning more about the microscopic world of cells. I believe that the purpose of writing this was to inform reader that the life of a cell is not too different of world as a whole. One of the main ideas of the essay is to connect the microscopic world with the the world as a whole.
Thomas explains his thoughts by using metaphors to connect humanity with nature. Other than metaphors, all of the essays are composed of many facts. Considering this book contains a lot of facts, it can be said that it contains content to strengthen the logos. This article is also built up of some other people’s ideas, there are points where Thomas will be talking about a topic, and will then cite another source in order to qualify hsi point.
This book contains a central theme that the life between plants, animals, and humans is all interwoven in a complicated way. There is harmony in the overall ecosystem. This rhetoric is unique because the author uses somewhat of a poetic language, in order to elucidate connections between all living things.
The essays are not only a discussion of biomedical topics, but they also contain philosophical ideas on medicine and science. Analysis of Works The essays in the complete book, The Lives of a Cell are effective in teaching the reader what the life of a cell is like. All twenty-nine essays focus on different biomedical subjects. Each essay is no longer than six pages, so the essays are right to the point.The essays focus on identifying a problem, explaining it to the reader with metaphors, and other useful tools, and then coming up with a theory to why the problem exists, and what could be done to improve the problem.
I believe that the text is credible, due to who the author is. Lewis Thomas is a known doctor, scientist, and writer; therefore he is qualified to be speaking on biomedical related topics. At some points in the book, Thomas will reference other essays on nature and science, in order to justify his information. Doing that, I believe Thomas strengthens the credibility of his piece. This is how the author achieved using the rhetorical device of ethos in making credibility strong.
An appeal to logos is extremely important when it comes to making a strong argument. I felt that this text especially appealed to logos. Many facts are presented in the text in order to explain what the ideas in the essays are, which makes it possible to understand. There did not seem to be as much of an appeal to pathos as there was to ethos and logos. The most effective tool Thomas used was drawing analogies between human behavior, and either animal behavior, or any other living organisms’ behavior. At one point he even connected humans to a part of a cell. An example used in the text is, “We are the delicate part part, transient and vulnerable as cilia” (Thomas).
In this analogy, Thomas is comparing how delicate humans are on this earth to how delicate cilia is in a single cell. Thomas also took time in his essays to draw analogies between living things and essentially, non-living things. In the text he compares the earth to a single-cell, mentioning that that the atmosphere is similar to the cell membrane.
In his essays he also connects medicine with science. Throughout the text, Thomas seems to keep the tone positive. When faced with different options of what will happen for future life, he will always side with the more optimistic option. Thomas never speaks negatively on any subject, even when it comes to death he is still somewhat positive, and concludes that death must not be something that we fear, and we should research it just like any other biological phenomenon. Thomas talks about such a diversity of topics in his essays, which allows for many important problems to come up for discussion. His first essay is solely on the connections between humanity and nature, and it brings up the point that humans need to take steps to fully understand our roles in nature.
In another one of Thomas’s essays he speaks about an interesting topic, music. He discusses that for humans music is something that can relax, entertain, and be an escape from the real world. He states that all animals make different noises as part of a needed characteristic in biology. In the text there are examples of things animals do to put sound to use one is, “drumming, created by beating feet, is used by prairie hens, rabbits, and mice” (Thomas).
Thomas also talks about the levels of how well humans are at things as compared to animals. One of these aspects is social talk, Thomas explains that language is the core of social behavior for humans, and that social behavior is the one thing that brings us to the level of animals. At times in his essays Thomas would present information that would really make the reader take a minute to think. Thomas’s essays are effectful in the essence of allowing the reader to leave with an understandance of the topic. One source who found this writing effectful is Douglas Kamerow, who is attended medical school, and attempted to read scientific and medical journals. He declares, “I understood virtually nothing in the august journal, and what I did understand I found uninteresting. Lewis Thomas’s Notes of a Biology Watcher column was the lone, wonderful, exception” (Kamero). Kamero goes on to say that Thomas’s essays gave him confidence that science and medicine can be interesting, and is able to be understood in more basic sorts of ways.
Kamero was also astonished at the fact that a doctor could write in such an engaging way. Another source, an essay by Marc Rothenberg, is a bit criticizing of The Lives of a Cell. Rothenberg suggests, “It is not clear what sort of long-term impact will result from Thomas’ success with The Lives of a Cell…It is not at all certain, for example, what impact he has had on the health industry in the United States. Perhaps Thomas’ greatest contribution has been to popularize the notion of the philosophical exposition of scientific ideas and theories by members of the scientific community” (Rothenberg, 1989).
In this quote Rothenberg is presenting that The Lives of a Cell, may not be the most effective book, as it has not really left any impact on the world of medicine or science. Rothenberg does not comment on Thomas’s writing being ineffective, and even admits that Thomas did a substantial job at interconnecting the world of science and medicine. The article however, does point out that a non-expert audience was not what Thomas had originally planned for, and that is how partly how it turned out.
Of the two critics of Thomas’s works, both provided what seemed to be effective arguments. The sources had the same idea when it came to qualifying Thomas’s writings as a great bridge between medicine and science. They both also found it to be a great way for non-experts on the subject to understand.
ReferencesThomas, L. (1980). The lives of a cell: notes of a biology watcher.
London: Allen Lane.Rothenberg, M. (1989). The Lives of a Cell. Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series, 1-3.Kamerow, D.
(2008, July 12). The Lives of a Cell. Retrieved January 18, 2018, “Thomas, Lewis.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2017, p. 1p. 1.
EBSCOhost. “Lewis Thomas.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition, Mar.
2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost.