“Joram Piatigorsky paints an intimate picture of life growing up in a renowned family with a deep commitment to excellence and achievement, and the accompanying challenges of being a child of such prominent parents. The look into the life of an émigré family in the second half of the 20th century is an important historical artifact of postwar America and Europe. The deep and personal story of Joram’s father’s public and private personae would be of interest to all those who value classical music’s role in society.
Joram’s notion of science as art is the connective tissue in this memoir. I have witnessed over the years the significant ties between music, science, medicine, and the visual arts. There is a magical connection between the two worlds and this lovely memoir brings that out gracefully and at times surprisingly. The Speed of Dark will resonate with musicians, those interested in art, music and history, and those who seek to carve their own path in a world filled with high expectations and seemingly unlimited resources.” - Sel Kardan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Colburn School of Performing Arts, Los Angeles
“The psychology of collecting is a difficult subject for any author, but for one who tries to understand the problems of inheriting a collection, watching collections being formed and creating a collection of one’s own, the difficulties are multiple. Joram Piatigorsky deals with the blessings and responsibilities of the first, describes his parents’ grapple with their own acquistional passions and then, charmingly and thoroughly self-deprecatingly, analyses himself. Very few collectors have been able to adequately express their pangs and joys, feelings that come from the scent, the hunt, the chase and the success – or failure – that collectors’ experience, but he does it and does it with conviction and passion.
“The scientific and thoroughly detached elements of Piatigorsky’s working life should qualify him fully to be able to write dispassionately about the art he himself collects, of the Inuit tribes of northern America. The clear and elegant prose on the theme of collecting reveals a dedication and self-understanding that is rare.” - Michael Hall, PhD, Curator of Ceramics, the Capelain Collection, and Curator of the Rothschild family collections, Exbury Estate, Hampshire, Great Britain
“An eminent scientist and well-respected art collector, Dr. Joram Piatigorsky’s memoir is an inspiring reflection on the creative passion that infuses a life devoted to scientific experimentation and a profound appreciation of the arts. He contrasts ancestral family traditions with his own life journey, discovering unexpected similarities and differences in the process – from the notable accomplishments of 19th century horticulturalists to his own distinguished career as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health; and from the deliberate and secure investment in Old Master paintings to an innovative, pioneering, and masterful collection of contemporary Inuit sculpture.
“Dr. Piatigorsky’s memoir is sure to engage the broad interest of readers and critics fascinated by the author’s intimate knowledge of Rothschild family history and its influence throughout the generations, particularly on his own family, as well as by his insightful reflection on the joy of scientific and artistic discovery and the challenge (and necessity) of charting an autonomous path to a unique and rewarding life. As a prominent collector of contemporary Inuit art, Dr. Piatigorsky’s memoir will provide particular interest to students, scholars, and fellow collectors knowledgeable in the creative traditions of Native North American artists.” - Bernadette Driscoll Engelstad, Independent Curator, Inuit Art
“The few scientists who turn to writing fiction late in their career, as did Carl Djerassi and E.O. Wilson, clearly wish to convey the personal components of a career in science along with the more technical aspects, and often also write autobiographies to explain their own trajectories. We are fortunate in this memoir by Joram Piatigorsky to learn of his career as one of the world’s authorities on the developmental biology of the eye, in studies from invertebrates to mammals.
“We also learn of his very different, but equally privileged, paternal and maternal heritages and the opportunities but also burdens of being born into these families at an epochal moment. His decades of interest and expertise in Inuit art have also become part of his way of being able to achieve his own voice in the world. Piatigorsky shows us that science, art and imaginative writing are all complementary ways of perceiving the world, although few of us attempt more than one of these paths. I think readers will find this book comparable, for example, to John Tyler Bonner’s now classic Lives of a Biologist, in explaining both the personal perceptions and scientific milieu of a truly examined life.” - Alan N. Schechter, M.D., Laboratory Chief, Senior Scientist and Historical Consultant, National Institutes of Health
“The Speed of Dark is an insightful and inspirational autobiography which vividly captures moments from the author’s life which impacted and enabled him to evolve and flourish into his own amongst his artistic family. Born into a family of great talent and fame, the bar was set very high for the author from the beginning. The memoirchronicles how through constant evaluation and self-examination at every stage of his life, the author was finally able to pave his own path to be a different type of artist - an accomplished scientist. Piatigorsky’s memoir demonstrates that artistry can be found in science.” - Joseph Horwitz, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology/Biophysics, Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles
“This is an engaging personal narrative of how Joram Piatigorsky emerged from his illustrious family to become a highly distinguished, award-winning American scientist, an art collector and recently, a writer and novelist. Piatigorsky’s journey includes his parents’ narrow escape from Hitler to the rural Adirondack Mountains where Piatigorsky was born, and then takes us from formal concert halls to his intimate childhood home to listen to the great musicians of the twentieth century, to the Rothschild palaces of his French relatives, and across the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war, where he meets his Russian relatives for the first time. Most importantly, he describes in simple, readable prose how he forged the first research laboratory on the molecular biology of the eye, which became the recognized world leader in the field of vision science and eye evolution. In my opinion, Piatigorsky’s unique story will receive a wide audience: professional and lay scientists, art collectors, musicians, historians, writers and those who have struggled to find their identity.” - Hamid Shams, BBP Films Producer and Cinematographer
The Speed of Dark is a deep and sweeping exploration of the relationship between science and art, told through the eyes of a man who experienced the mystery of both. Piatigorsky represents that rare writer who can weave a compelling narrative that combines the intrinsically fascinating but often arcane world of science with the supposedly adverse nature of artistic and musical expression. Through it all, he manages to prove Ben Franklin’s famous maxim that one must live a life worth writing before he can write a life worth reading. This memoir is not just worth reading, it is worth remembering! - James Mathews, The Writer’s Center Board of Directors, Author of Last Known Position
"The son of a Rothschild heiress and a world-class cellist, Joram Piatigorsky grew up in a rarified atmosphere of privilege, talent, and love. Not content with being known by his parents' accomplishments, he established his own reputation as a respected NIH scientist and a foremost collector of Inuit art. This fascinating account of his journey becomes a meditation on art, wonder, and creativity, of bucking the status quo and following one's heart. It's a lesson we all need on taking risks and discovering the unexpected." - Barbara Esstman, Author, Editor, Instructor, The Writer’s Center, Author of The Other Anna, Night Ride Home, and A More Perfect Union
Hardcover: 334 pages
Publishing date: December 2, 2018
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
Price: $29.60 (hardcover) $22.30 (paperback) $9.77(e-book)
During his 50-year career at the National Institutes of Health, Joram Piatigorsky has published some 300 scientific articles and a book, Gene Sharing and Evolution (Harvard University Press, 2007), lectured worldwide, received numerous research awards, including the prestigious Helen Keller Prize for vision research, served on scientific editorial boards, advisory boards and funding panels, and trained a generation of scientists. Presently an emeritus scientist, he collects Inuit art, is on the Board of Directors of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, blogs (JoramP.com), and has published a series of personal essays in the journal Lived Experience and a novel, Jellyfish Have Eyes (IPBooks, 2014). He has two sons, five grandchildren, and lives with his wife in Bethesda, Maryland. http://jorampiatigorsky.com