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Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives) Paperback – Bargain Price, November 3, 2009
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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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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Ridley weighs in on the well-known, controversial, mysterious and misunderstood aspects of the discovery of DNA. He includes sane descriptions and analyses of Crick's storied colleagues -Watson, Wilkins, Franklin, Brenner, Orgel, and many others. Ridley's treatment of Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, Pauling, Chargaff and others involved in the controversial steps toward the discovery of DNA is well worth a look.Read more ›
Watson had previously told the story of the discovery of the DNA structure in his book The Double Helix, but in his version, he tried to present the events as he saw them when he was living through them. Ridley gives a more objective picture and he also has a lot of information that Watson had to omit because he didn't know it at the time. Ridley's is far better as science history; Watson's is a helluva lot better story.
Watson and Crick approached the question of DNA structure with different motives. As Watson tells it - and his story rings true in this regard - he was a young, unknown scientist looking for a project that would establish him as more than just a bright post-doc. Crick, a militant atheist, wanted to show that there was some important aspect of life that could be explained without resorting to the hypothesis of God. (Numerous people had already done this; Crick wanted to extend the work in some significant way.) DNA was perfect for both men. Significantly, it was Crick who insisted on including a line in the original letter to Nature saying that the structure suggested a method for replication.
With the double helix nailed down, Watson could say "Mission Accomplished" and devote some energy to his next major project: looking for a wife. (That's how he tells it in the sequel.) For Crick however, the job had barely begun. To make his point, he had to show how DNA did its job, using only the laws of chemistry.Read more ›
While I got this glimpse of Crick's personality, I did not learn as much as I had hoped about DNA. That is due to my faulty background in science at least as much as to any fault in Ridley's prose. But Ridley did inspire me to get back to Watson's "Double Helix," and eventually, I hope, I will arrive at more of an insight into the intellectual revolution that was brought about by Crick and Watson.
As others have noted, the book - so full of names and places - cries out for photographs. There are none. And it cries out for an index, of which there is none. Please, Atlas Books, relax your purse strings a bit and provide such things for the second edition.
This book, by professor and author Matt Ridley, succinctly tells the life story of Dr. Francis Crick (1916 to 2004), perhaps best known for discovering, along with Dr. James Watson, the structure of DNA. (Ridley tells us that "I first met Francis Crick through my wife [a professor], who worked with him in 1985.")
Roughly, this book can be divided into five parts:
(1) Crick's early years
(2) His discovery, along with Watson, of the double helical structure of DNA
(3) Crick's discovery of the genetic code ("as great an achievement as the double helix")
(4) His interesting life after the double helix and the genetic code
(5) Crick's work in neuroscience and human consciousness
Besides Ridley's generally easy to read narrative, there are also included actual parts of letters and quotations by Crick and other influential others of that time. Ridley did not only rely only on other written sources to create his interesting and illuminating main narrative but also relied on interviews with Crick's second wife and his grown children.
As I was reading this book, I came across surprisingly many things I did not know. (I say surprisingly because I have read quite a bit on the discovery of DNA's structure but admit that I knew very little about Francis Crick the man.) As I was reading this book, I got the impression that Crick was quite a remarkable person. This impression lasted until I read the last few pages of chapter ten.
Ridley could have not written these last few pages and only written that Crick was extraordinary in every way. But he chose not too instead giving us details of some of Crick's bizarre beliefs. (Some of these beliefs may get some readers upset.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An entertaining tale of probably the best visual intuitive of the last century. He worked in a field where his gifts continue to benefit humanity. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Troy Fergen
A page turner for me after page 15 or so. A science whodunnit.Published 6 months 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 6 months 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