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A life on the wild side
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  1. John Launer
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Launer, Professional Development Department, Health Education England, Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London WS1B 5DN, UK; john.launer{at}nwl.hee.nhs.uk

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“I have spent over a year of my life in lock-up due to being bi-polar. Often when I'm brought in by the police during a manic episode, it's obvious that I need to be incarcerated in hospital, and the transfer promptly takes place. Getting out once you're in takes some negotiation, as well as evidence that your manic phase is sufficiently under control. After the episode is indeed under control, you suffer depression of a half to a full year, after which you are back to functioning as you were before. This subject would almost require a book in itself, but here I am skipping it entirely and focusing only on my criminal arrests.”1

This quotation is from a recent autobiography, written by an American in his seventies who has spent much of his life in Jamaica. It is actually from one of the less dramatic parts of the book. Elsewhere, we learn about the author's encounters with violence, gangs, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, prostitutes, armed robbery, murder, near-death experiences – and lizards.

The reason the lizards are in the book, along with pigeons, ants, humans and other organisms, is that the writer is in fact Robert Trivers, one of the world's leading evolutionary scholars. He has managed to combine a life of mental illness, danger, feuds and controversy with discoveries in evolutionary biology that some people consider among the most important since Darwin.

Trivers' …

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