A MONSTROUS COMMOTION takes a fresh and authoritative look at one of the greatest scientific mysteries of the last hundred years – and reaches an unexpected conclusion.
Many books have set out to prove or disprove the existence of the Monster, but nobody has yet told the story to its best advantage. This is a lively and hugely entertaining saga, populated by fascinating characters from the worlds of science and exploration who did extraordinary things – and sometimes risked their reputations – in the pursuit of an animal that should have died out 65 million years ago.
Believers in the Monster included Commander Rupert Gould, doyen of the BBC Brains Trust; world-famous naturalist Sir Peter Scott; Tim Dinsdale, an aeronautical engineer who was transformed into a global celebrity by filming the Monster; David James, MP and prisoner-of-war escaper; and Robert Rines, the American inventor of the radar technology that located the wreck of the Titanic.
Loch Ness became a battle-ground between the scientific establishment and ‘cryptozoology’, the study of animals whose existence remains unproven. Scientists who lost their jobs because they believed in the Monster included Dr. Denys Tucker, of the Natural History Museum in London, and Professor Roy Mackal of the University of Chicago. Yet the front cover of Nature, the world’s most prestigious scientific journal, featured an underwater photograph of the Monster’s flipper in December 1975. But was it just a coincidence that the scientific name which Sir Peter Scott proposed for the creature turned out to be an anagram of ‘Monster hoax by Sir Peter S’
Drawing extensively on previously unpublished material in the Peter Scott Archives, Cambridge, Professor Gareth Williams unravels the history, the facts and the personaliities behind the legend. He explains the scientific evidence lucidly and engagingly, while ultimately leaving readers to decide the truth for themselves. Full of twists, turns and surprises, A MONSTROUS COMMOTION is a compelling tale as well as a fascinating examination of the motives that drive all scientific enquiry.
GARETH WILLIAMS is Emeritus Professor and former Dean of Medicine at Bristol University. He grew up in Belfast and qualified with honours in medicine from Clare College, Cambridge. An internationally recognised authority in diabetes and obesity research, he has written 200 scientific papers and authored or edited over 20 medical books, including the prize-winning Textbook of Diabetes. His previous books for a general readership are Angel of Death: The Story of Smallpox (shortlisted for the Wellcome Medical Book Prize, 2010) and Paralysed with Fear: the story of polio. He lives in rural Gloucestershire.
Reviews of A Monstrous Commotion
Lively and entertaining … Surely the best and sanest recent book on [the Monster]: readable, informative and fully referenced.
A very readable account … fluent, entertaining … the first Nessie book to adopt a non-partisan approach, giving erqual space to believers and sceptics
Lively and entertaining … A Monstrous Commotion is surely the best and sanest of the recent books on the Loch Ness Monster: readable, informative and fully referenced.
Sheds intriguing light on the origins of our obsession ... Williams does a fine
job of weaving all these threads into a coherent narrative … The final
revelation is a good one.
Adrian Turpin, Wigtown Book Festival
Entertaining … Gareth Williams is the first to present a non-partisan
account of events at the loch … [He] brings a dry wit and a scientist’s
illuminating perspective … No one has written better about the great Nature
debacle, when that prestigious magazine lent its authority to a sensational
underwater photograph of the Monster.
Times Literary Supplement
‘Intriguing … Guided by meticulous research via interviews and previously
unpublished material in the Peter Scott Archives, Professor Gareth Williams unravels the history, facts and personalities as he takes the reader on an engrossing exploration full of twists, turns and surprises.
Especially valuable for its research into the origins and development of the
Monster’s story … Williams deals kindly with the honest Monster hunters and
is critical of scientists who unthinkingly dismissed them.