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A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock 10th anniversary ed Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0716715047
ISBN-10: 071671504X
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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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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: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
A very short review of this incontournable book, for all those that want to better know the scientific world or that have interest in the female conditions throughout the 20 century. Those thinking that scientists are a bit "crazy" or mystical will probably find unvaluable arguments in McClintok's personality!

The book is well writen and easy to read; even for people that do not have a background in genetics. From my point of view, those people will nevertheless have more interest in the aspects of "McClintock's as a female revolutionary scientist" rather than in "the genesis and communication of new ideas in life-science".

Most of the information provided about McClintok's life and thoughts seem acurate, even if some authors have pointed out several speculations made by Evelyn Fox Keller.
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