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Life at the Extremes by Frances Ashcroft

Good Housekeeping's view...

September 2009 Good Housekeeping selection.

On My Bookshelf by Penny Smith...

Life At The Extremes: The Science Of Survival by Dr Frances Ashcroft is full of derring-do and really mad scientists trying to prove what they think they know. You know QI (Quite Interesting)? Well this should be VI because I find it Very Interesting. For example, when they tell you to put on your mask first in a plane it’s because the 15 seconds before the oxygen becomes too thin is the only time you are capable of doing anything. That’s worth knowing!

GMTV presenter Penny Smith is passionate about books and is now a novelist herself; her latest fiction, After The Break, is published by Harper Perennial.

What is Good Housekeeping


Life at the Extremes by Frances Ashcroft

Man can only tolerate a limited range of environmental conditions, whereas other lifeforms thrive in the most intense conditions - in extreme heat or many, many leagues under the sea in utter darkness or deep in the middle of rocks. Why is this so? How do people survive extremes of heat, cold, depth and height? For the geneticist, inheritance is all. But for the physiologist, extremism is all. This book explores the limits to human survival and the physiological adaptations which enable us to exist under extreme conditions.


`She has the power of making the armchair adventurer feel quite frail. Add to that her gift for carving deep into your mind how vulnerable our species is to extreme conditions, and you are in for a thrilling read.
New Scientist

'I read Life at the Extremes with horrid delight...It is extremely good, crammed with invaluable information but you don't need a degree in cryptocryogenics to understand it. Here is a scientist who can enthral even as she instructs - and the way she accomplishes this is by telling adventure stories...As a testament to the tenacity of the human race, this book is a potent mix of the ingenious, the heroic and the hardy.'
Literary Review

`For would-be explorers snuggled up in their armchairs - or, indeed stretched out on the beach - this book, with its many vicarious thrills, makes for ideal reading.

`A very good book...which works both as a continuous narrative of delightful vignettes and a quick reference guide. Easy to read, entertaining and informative.
Sunday Times

`Ashcroft is good at opening up aspects of daily life normally sealed off to the non-scientist.
Sara Wheeler, Spectator

About the Author

Frances Ashcroft

Frances Ashcroft is a professor of Physiology at Oxford and a Fellow of Trinity College and the Royal Society. She divides her time between research on insulin (the hormone that controls the blood sugar level), teaching and writing books. She has experienced several of the extremes discussed in Life At The Extremes, but has yet to try spaceflight. This is her first work for the general reader.

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Book Info

Publication date

2nd July 2001


Frances Ashcroft

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Flamingo an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


352 pages


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