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A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock Paperback – February 15, 1984

ISBN-13: 978-0716715047 ISBN-10: 071671504X Edition: 10th anniversary ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 10th anniversary ed edition (February 15, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071671504X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716715047
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Barbara McClintock was one of the premier investigators in cytology and classical genetics, but her work was pushed out of the mainstream by the revolution in molecular biology in the middle of this century. Thirty years later, the simple truths sought by research scientists whose training was closer to physics than biology continued to prove elusive, and the discovery of transposons in bacteria marked the beginning of a revival of interest in her work. Keller's analysis of McClintock's difficulty in finding a place to work and her relations with other investigators is insightful and thought-provoking, not only about women in science, but about the role of dissent in the scientific community.

From Publishers Weekly

This biography of the pioneering geneticist McClintock originally appeared in 1983, just before she was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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It is a great story about the intuitive side of science.
Mark M.
She was rarely wrong, except in one case where she thought she had made a mistake in judgment and later found it was a simple recording error!
Bobby Matherne
In this book, she presents the life and work of Barbara McClintock.
Erika Mitchell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Imagine being devalued simply because you are a woman in a man's career at a time when that made you an oddity. Then imagine having a mind brilliant enough to identify and understand transposable elements at a time when your science is so far ahead of everyone else's work that they cannot understand you or take you seriously. Put those two factors together and imagine how much confidence and courage it took for her to stick with her studies of maize genetics until everyone else caught up with her. Even if you're not interested in her science, you can't read this book and not be inspired by the woman. Dr. McClintock is my hero on many levels.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1997
Format: Paperback
I discovered this book as I was looking for a text for my university seminar, "Women in Science". The search has been frustrating because there are so few readable but substantive books on women who have contributed to our knowledge of the world. There's a lot of fluff; but what I wanted to show my students was the struggles as well as the triumphs--the frustrations, as well as the acolades. I wanted them to see the scientific landscape through the eyes of a woman, and to hear her voice. This book offered that and so much more. Unlike Sy Montgomery's "Walking with the Great Apes" (Houghton Mifflin, 1991), which follows the careers of Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas, Keller resists the temptation to go kitsch. Instead, she showed what made Barbara McClintock a Nobel Prize winner and a scientific outsider.

--Nan Crystal Arens,
Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology,
University of California, Berkeley
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A .J. Casper on December 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Barbara McClintock was a maverick from the very beginning. Her parents did not consider education as the best option for a woman. Her relationship with her mother was particularly frictitious. She made the decision to study botany at Cornell, and her love of the genetics grew. She worked on maize at a time when most cytogeneticists were working on Drosophila. It can easily be argued that nobody understood the maize plant and its genetics as well as she did at the time.

The book can get quite technical midway, and will be appreciated best by those with a background in genetics. McClintock was a woman way ahead of her time, in fact, decades ahead. She could not be promoted to certain positions at several institutions simply because she is female (despite a superior knowledge in cytogenetics).

It took approximately 5 years for McClintock to finish and publish her results on transposable elements in chromosomes (transposons). She gave numerous presentations on her discoveries and nobody understood - at a time when molecular biology was taking over the field of cytogenetics. This book shows that science is not always objective. It also brings up legitimate points as to whether the prevailing Western view of Science (i.e. the scientific method) is efficient enough in scientific research and discovery.

I highly recommend this book!
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rachel on December 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
"A Feeling for the Organism" is much closer to memoir than biography. When McClintock denied Keller access to her letters and notebooks, Keller chose to rely on McClintock's recollections. Consequently, we learn how McClintock wanted others to see her, and perhaps how she wanted to see herself, but not the truth. McClintock is portrayed as a genius struggling against a world too stupid to appreciate her brilliance, but the existence of transposition was never in serious doubt; it was McClintock's theory of genetic control that was controversial, and later discarded as incorrect. For a better understanding of McClintock's work and its reception, read The Tangled Field by Nathaniel Comfort, which manages to tell the real story without diminishing the scientific importance or originality of McClintock.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. It is the story of a science as well as the story of a scientist. It is a story of synergy, that elusive concept that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The book reminds us that a person is more than the collection of individual cells; that the cell is more than the collection of cytoplasm, nucleus, and chromosomes; that the chromosomes are more than the collection of individual genes; and that the science of biology is more than the collection of individual scientists. It reminds me that in the process of taking something apart to discover how it 'ticks', we frequently miss all the different ways it was originally connected. This book is not, however, limited to science and scientists -- its messages and lessons have a broader appeal and application. It can apply to any group of people, any collection of individuals, for this is also the story of a maverick. Mavericks are only considered different and unusual in relation to a group. Mavericks als
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a biography of geneticist Barbara McClintock. Keller is a scholar and researcher with a special interest in women scientists. In this book, she presents the life and work of Barbara McClintock. She explains the importance of McClintock's work and her incredible ability to observe of genetic variation from the physical appearance of plants. She also details the context of McClintock's work, noting the difficulties McClintock faced in pushing her research program forward in an academic world that had no room for women scientists. The book is quite interesting for bringing to light McClintock's discoveries regarding gene transposition, as well as for its description of the special challenges McClintock faced as a woman trying to work in a man's world.
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