Cambridge to Paris and America

Author: Maxwell, Donald R.
This memoir is a sequel to the author’s A Journey from Wartime Europe to Self-Discovery (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003). It describes the author’s years at Cambridge, from arrival as a nervous schoolboy to leaving as a physics tutor and medical researcher. After his Cambridge doctorate, the author returns to Paris, the city of his birth and early youth. He obtains an appointment at the Radium Institute (now Curie Institute), lives at the Cité Universitaire and experiences the life and culture of Paris and post-WWII French science. After marriage to a French music student, he accepts an invitation to return to England and take up a research appointment there. Some years later, pharmacological work on prostaglandins, potent substances with a variety of physiological actions, leads to a research collaboration with Japanese and American groups and eventually to an appointment in the area of New Jersey that is prominent in the author’s first book. The work emphasizes the differences in the lifestyles of the three countries. It will appeal to readers of the author’s first memoir as well as to students of the culture of science.


“Many autobiographies are the expression of ‘un amour de soi’ and end up being essays of self-admiration, but this autobiography is none of that. On the contrary, it is the quiet evocation of some chosen ‘privileged moments’ of his life, the narration of some of his experiences, some pleasant and some sad ones, reviewed, rethought and deepened, but never expended or transformed ... Since I have the pleasure of knowing Dr. Maxwell as a colleague and friend, I do not hesitate to say that in his narrative I recognize him as he truly is, a person of great intelligence, creativity and sensitivity. Readers of his book will no doubt admire his talent as a scientist and his love for literature ... Written in pure simple and pleasant style, the narrative reads well and entertains from beginning to the end. To all readers, I say ‘tolle lege!’” – (from the Preface) Guy R. Mermier, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

“ ... The volume’s greatest strength, to my mind, is to be found in its evocation of the actual conditions and activities of scientific research in a variety of settings, particularly in what now seems like a bygone era, Cambridge and Paris in the 1940s and 1950s ... Dr. Maxwell’s good-natured humanity, his sometimes bemused but always tolerant attitude toward the many different people he encounters, comes through strongly throughout this volume. The result is a pleasure to read and a distinctive and often charming evocation of an active, creative, and yet thoroughly unpretentious twentieth-century life.” – Professor William Paulson, University of Michigan

“ ... This book continues the life story begun in A Journey from Wartime Europe to Self-Discovery. This new book begins with Dr. Maxwell’s adult intellectual journey into the sciences at Cambridge, back to his native France for research, and then to America. Through it all, he manages to give memory something of the force of perception, to make the virtual actual. It is a memorable telling of a remarkable life.” – Keith Taylor, Coordinator, Undergraduate Creative Writing, University of Michigan

" ... offers the reader a blend of narrative scholarship that showcases the life of a research scientist from having earned his doctorate at Cambridge University, to his work at the Curie Institute in Paris, to having earned a second doctorate in French Literature back in America, and finally settling in Ann Arbor ... Enhanced with a block of period photographs, this book is a finely presented and highly recommended memoir showcasing both academic and family life." - Michael Dunford in The Midwest Book Review, April 2006

Table of Contents

Preface by Guy R. Mermier
1. Cambridge
2. Summer 1955
3. Paris Again
4. The Radium Institute
5. A Collaboration
6. The Second Voyage of Discovery