Virtual Event: Raghuveer Parthasarathy


So Simple a Beginning:
How Four Physical Principles
Shape Our Living World

in conversation with PHILIP NELSON


November 29, 2022
6:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome RAGHUVEER PARTHASARATHY—Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon—for a discussion of his new book, So Simple a Beginning: How Four Physical Principles Shape Our Living World. He will be joined in conversation by PHILIP NELSON, author and University of Pennsylvania faculty member.

Contribute to Support Harvard Book Store

While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of So Simple a Beginning on, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.

Click here to join!

About So Simple a Beginning

The form and function of a sprinting cheetah are quite unlike those of a rooted tree. A human being is very different from a bacterium or a zebra. The living world is a realm of dazzling variety, yet a shared set of physical principles shapes the forms and behaviors of every creature in it. So Simple a Beginning shows how the emerging new science of biophysics is transforming our understanding of life on Earth and enabling potentially lifesaving but controversial technologies such as gene editing, artificial organ growth, and ecosystem engineering.

Raghuveer Parthasarathy explains how four basic principles―self-assembly, regulatory circuits, predictable randomness, and scaling―shape the machinery of life on scales ranging from microscopic molecules to gigantic elephants. He describes how biophysics is helping to unlock the secrets of a host of natural phenomena, such as how your limbs know to form at the proper places, and why humans need lungs but ants do not. Parthasarathy explores how the cutting-edge biotechnologies of tomorrow could enable us to alter living things in ways both subtle and profound.

Featuring dozens of original watercolors and drawings by the author, this sweeping tour of biophysics offers astonishing new perspectives on how the wonders of life can arise from so simple a beginning.

Praise for So Simple a Beginning

“Deft and engaging. Parthasarathy constantly finds the metaphors that best illuminate his subject. And what a subject―a perfect mix of the latest exciting new work with classic results needed to understand it. Every chapter gives an original view from a wide-ranging intellect, and unifies ideas that are rarely presented together.” ―Philip Nelson, author of From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision

“Parthasarathy presents an accessible yet scientifically accurate picture of modern biology, and it’s a pleasure to read.” ―Sonia Contera, author of Nano Comes to Life

“Parthasarathy has given readers a delightful narrative guide to the exciting and important ways in which physics and biology come together to help us understand living matter. I found myself learning something new in every chapter and loved the fun case studies, constant insights, and captivating illustrations.” ―Rob Phillips, author of The Molecular Switch: Signaling and Allostery

Philip Nelson
Philip Nelson

Philip Nelson

Philip Nelson is the author of Biological Physics, Physical Models of Living Systems, and From Photon to Neuron. He is on the faculty of University of Pennsylvania and has been Chair of the American Physical Society's Division of Biological Physics.

Raghuveer Parthasarathy
Raghuveer Parthasarathy

Raghuveer Parthasarathy

Raghuveer Parthasarathy is a Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon. His research explores the intersections between biology and physics, focusing especially on how communities of gut microbes organize themselves in space and time. His teaching activities include courses for non-science majors, such as a “biophysics for non-scientists” class and courses on energy and the environment. In 2020, Parthasarathy was selected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

General Info
(617) 661-1515

Media Inquiries

Accessibility Inquiries

Classic Totes

Tote bags and pouches
in a variety of styles,
sizes, and designs
, plus mugs, bookmarks, and more!

Learn More »

Shipping & Pickup

We ship anywhere in the U.S. and orders of $75+ ship free via media mail!

Learn More »

Noteworthy Signed Books: Join the Club!

Join our Signed First Edition Club (or give a gift subscription) for a signed book of great literary merit, delivered to you monthly.

Learn More »