Peter Ward, a marine biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is fascinated by the chambered nautilus, the lone survivor of an entire subclass of molluscs that emerged some 500 million years ago. In the course of thinking about how to open this world to the public—whom he calls "the real supporters of science"—Ward received a flyer describing a new publishing venture by the New York Academy of Sciences.

The result is In Search of Nautilus, one of the first in a series designed to encourage scientists to write non-technical books with mass-market appeal. Begun in 1986, the series—entitled The Scientific Prospect—is meant to serve scientists eager to become authors but ignorant of how to go about it.

"The idea of showing the public how science is done intrigued me," said Ward. "As a university professor, I think it is one of the things we do least well....

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