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Francis Crick, who died at the age of eighty-eight in 2004, will be bracketed with Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein as one of the great scientists of all time. Between 1953 and 1966 he made and led a revolution in biology by discovering, quite literally, the secret of life: the digital cipher at the heart of heredity that distinguishes living from non-living things--the genetic code. His own discoveries--though he always worked with one other partner and did much of his thinking in conversation--include not only the double helix but the whole mechanism of protein synthesis, the three-letter nature of the code, and much of the code itself.
Matt Ridley's biography traces Crick's life from middle-class mediocrity in the English Midlands, through a lackluster education and six years designing magnetic mines for the Royal Navy, to his leap into biology at the age of thirty-one. While at Cambridge, he suddenly began to display the unique visual imagination and intense tenacity of thought that would allow him to see the solutions to several great scientific conundrums--and to see them long before most biologists had even conceived of the problems. Having set out to determine what makes living creatures alive and having succeeded, he immigrated at age sixty to California and turned his attention to the second question that had fascinated him since his youth: What makes conscious creatures conscious? Time ran out before he could find the answer.
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Francis Crick (1916–2004) is a natural addition to the Eminent Lives series. Best known for his codiscovery of the structure of DNA alongside James Watson, Crick is a canonical figure in modern science; award-winning British science writer Ridley (The Agile Gene) is an expert and distinguished author of popular books on biological science. But one wishes the strictures of this series gave Ridley more space in which to work; the prose is crisp and forthright, but he barely has enough room to recount the basic contours of Crick's voracious scientific career, leaving the reader with but a few fleeting glimpses of the man's deeper character. Readers of Watson's The Double Helix who pick up this book looking for a similarly idiosyncratic portrait of a scientific life will be disappointed, but one might argue that this spare, straightforward volume is a more fitting tribute to a scientist who lived a relatively modest public life while striving to understand the basic workings of life and consciousness. (June 1)
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A page turner for me after page 15 or so. A science whodunnit.Published 15 days ago by Douglas L Cone
This book is an excellent contrast to The Double Helix. That book was written as if you were part of the ongoing process through the eyes of a young James Watson. Read morePublished 27 days ago by Daniel Putman
Reading about Dr. Francis Crick, one of the greatest scientist ever, is educative and a pleasure. Matt Riddley makes it enjoyable.Published on June 12, 2013 by Almerio Barros Franca
Matt Ridley is one of my most favoured authors. The vast array of topics, ethology, anthropology, genetics, biology, sociology, psychology, economics, and philosophy rolled into... Read morePublished on June 3, 2012 by Robtheprofessional
This book is a short yet very lucid, and very insightful in some places, of a marvelous scientific life -- that of Francis Crick. Read morePublished on July 3, 2010 by Charles Q. Wu (吴全丰)
Discovery of the secret of the gene (and `life' according to Crick) is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating episodes of the history of science! Read morePublished on April 4, 2010 by Saak V. Ovsepian
This is a very interesting and highly readable book, but a little gushing especially towards the end. Read morePublished on October 9, 2008 by Andrew
While the author got Crick's name right, he dropped the ball on the rest of the title. Crick did not discover the genetic code. Marshall Nirenberg did. Read morePublished on October 23, 2007 by Dick Marti