My all-time favorite biology writer would, without a doubt, be Lewis Thomas. Twenty-odd years before anyone had conceived of blogging, much less blogging about science, Lewis Thomas was publishing a handful of books that were on science, creative and pithy, and little more than a collection of loosely-connected essays. Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher is the most popular of his books, and is amusing light reading that will entertain biologists of all fields.
Throughout the book, Thomas reveals truly extraordinary facts about biology and microbiology that tend to leave the reader in actual awe. Another of his books, The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher, is in the same vein. For Lives of a Cell, one Amazon reviewer gave this description:
it seems to me that one common theme of several of the chapters has to do with communication — oral, chemical, behavioral, and genetic. Other possible themes include the fact that humans are “not all that.” That we are part of the global system, not running it. Another possibility includes the idea that everything can be an analogy of the way that a cell works — organelles, membranes, cellular processes, products, and so forth.
I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell.
And so on. His books are insightful and thought-provoking, and use non-techical prose that is uncommon for a person of science. The light-hearted tone makes his books among my favorite light-reading.
Lewis Thomas (1913-1993) himself spent most of his illustrious medical career as a medical researcher and administrator at Yale Medical School, NYU School of Medicine, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute.