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Genes, Girls, and Gamow [Kindle Edition]

James D. Watson
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In the years following his and Francis Crick’s towering discovery of DNA, James Watson was obsessed with finding two things: RNA and a wife. Genes, Girls, and Gamow is the marvelous chronicle of those pursuits. Watson effortlessly glides between his heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious debacles in the field of love and his heady inquiries in the field of science. He also reflects with touching candor on some of science’s other titans, from fellow Nobelists Linus Pauling and the incorrigible Richard Feynman to Russian physicist George Gamow, who loved whiskey, limericks, and card tricks as much as he did molecules and genes. What emerges is a refreshingly human portrait of a group of geniuses and a candid, often surprising account of how science is done.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Readers unfamiliar with James D. Watson's previous memoir, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, may be surprised that his new one pays as much attention to his pursuit of the perfect woman as to the pursuit of knowledge. But Watson's 1968 book wasn't a bestseller because of its scientific material (though it was lucidly written for the general public); it was his candid portrait of professional rivalries, consuming ambition, and personal eccentricities that made it both popular and controversial. Even today, Watson's lively prose and decidedly frank opinions are still far from the norm. Oh sure, Girls, Genes, and Gamow contains plenty of information about his efforts (with colleagues ranging from bongo-playing Richard Feynman to the free-spirited George Gamow) to unravel the complexities of the RNA molecule from 1953 to '56. But Watson--still in his 20s at the time--also devotes pages to hard drinking, bitter marital breakups, and unwanted pregnancies among his not-so-high-minded peers, and his own anguished affair with a Swarthmore undergrad who left him for a German engineering student. It's not every Nobel Prize-winning biologist who would admit he was thrilled to have his photo in Vogue because it would "make 'with it' American girls more eager to know me," but that boyish openness gives Watson's book its charm. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

This classy memoir reads like a Who's Who of 20th-century science and picks up where the author left off in his classic book, The Double Helix. In 1953, Watson, then 25, and colleague Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, a historic achievement that won them both the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Here Watson, who quickly became an icon for biology students worldwide, gives a detailed, journal-writer's account of the aftermath, recalling with subtle humor his younger self's professional and equally pressing amorous ambitions. Professionally, the goal was to unravel the structure of a then still-mysterious molecule called ribonucleic acid, or RNA. Watson's scientific highs and lows are mingled with his adventures in academic high society, some of which have the flavor of Wodehousian lark, as when Wilson and fellow pranksters "temporarily absconded with the experimental lobsters" belonging to a boorish lecturer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod. Readers also encounter the "pope-like" figure of Caltech chemist Linus Pauling, the bongo-playing genius physicist Richard Feynman and of course Russian theoretical physicist George Gamow, the "zany," card-trick playing, limerick-singing, booze-swilling, practical-joking "giant imp" who founded with Watson the RNA-Tie Club. Reading Watson is a delight, an opportunity to breathe the rarefied air of his generation's greatest scientists and to crash a faculty cocktail party or two along the way.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3848 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 7, 2002)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000QCS9YG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,806 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life After the Discovery of the Double Helix August 14, 2002
I was a research fellow in CalTech's Kerckhoff Laboratories of Biology when Jim Watson arrived in the autumn of 1953 to join us as a research fellow. Everyone was curious about the person who had come from nowhere to make, along with Francis Crick, one of the great discoveries of the twentieth century. I found him to be very bright, friendly, and bubbling with ideas. Genes, Girls, and Gamow describes the ferment in biology at that time, and his attempts to apply intuition to the problem of how information in DNA translates into proteins. But much of the book is a candid account of his search for the perfect girl to marry. We go through his attempts to woo a string of CalTech girls - all failures. I once suggested to a pretty, intelligent lab assistant that he would be a good catch, since he was sure to get a Nobel prize. She gave me a look that would have frozen melted steel, so I kept silent after that. The account of his pursuit of undergraduate student Christa Mayr is almost painful to read, since he loves her, but she is only lukewarm. It all comes out well, however, when he finally finds the girl of his deams. The third part of the book's title, the physicist George Gamow, flits in and out of the story in the same way that he would appear at CalTech and then disappear. The book reminds me a bit of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, since we read where Watson went, with whom, and what they discussed. If you would like to read an insider story of the way that much of our current biology developed explosively in the 1950's, this story gives you a month by month diary. Jim Watson's candor makes it fascinating reading.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slight and boring August 16, 2002
The Double Helix is a classic (even if it was a rather hyped up embellishment of the way it was), but this is nowhere near it in quality. One suspects that any publisher would have leapt at a chance to publish JDWs "next" book, after all the Double Helix must have made everyone concerned rich. Big mistake - poor Knopf. This is a rather bizarre book really - mainly all rather painful accounts of JDWs awkward contacts with girls and superficial accounts of various interactions with often famous scientists. The narrative thread is completely aimless and, frankly, rather boring. Never really do you get a real feel of what it was actually JDW and his colleagues were doing day to day to earn their salaries. There are also some somewhat awkward moments when JDW tries to make up for criticisms of the Double Helix (being nice about Rosalind Franklin and saying it was not him who coined the phrase "I have never seen Francis Crick in a modest mood" and so on). The book meanders through the middle fifties until JDW gets his job at Harvard (quite why anyone would give him a job is rather beyond the reader to understand when reading about his endless perigrinations), but I think we can say that Watson has a lot more to give than this book indicates. Completely unlike Francois Jacob's account of his life this book gives very little away about the author's inner life. His love for Christa Mayr is all rather embarrassing and very sophomoric. It makes you almost feel more sorry for her. The book does not even finish well. It just fizzles out. A final chapter of postcript catches up to the late sixties.
I am very interested in this material, but this is a poor book by anyone's standards. I am not really blaming Watson. Knopf published the book and they were foolish enough to do so. It is all rather a shame as JDW is a seminal figure and the book perhaps could have been another tour de force.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Science Giant's Informal Memoir February 19, 2002
James D. Watson produced a delightful and frequently hilarious book, _The Double Helix_, his 1968 account of how he and Francis Crick and their fellow researchers managed to jimmy molecular models into just the right positions to reveal the structure of the huge molecule DNA. It was one of the greatest discoveries science had ever made, announced in 1953 and gaining the Nobel Prize in 1962. Watson's book wonderfully well recounts the race to get the structure down, and it was a classic scientific memoir exciting enough to make it a best seller. Watson was only 25 years old when DNA was cracked, and besides biochemistry, he had other things on his mind. Girls. Thus he has produced _Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix_ (Knopf) to tell what happened to him after his epochal success. "I felt the need to have more than the double helix below my belt before winning the prize. I did not want to be overpraised for what was not very difficult science." That sort of modesty pervades his book.
Although genes get the first mention in the title, and there is plenty of science here, the chief part of the memoir is devoted to "girls," always on Watson's mind. It is amusing that a scientist who will be remembered forever for his monumental discovery often sounds like a confused loveless teenager seeking female solace. He frets when a girlfriend doesn't write, for instance, and stumbles in sexual endeavors. The final part of the title refers to George Gamow, an amazing physicist who pops up all over American science in the forties and fifties.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Watson, I pressume...
Narcissism and name dropping in Science, though not much of Science in here but lots and lots of not-so-interesting Watson
Published 1 month ago by Marcos A. Hardy
3.0 out of 5 stars Thats enough about my book. How about me?
Interesting when one realizes how many scientific luminaries he knows and worked and socialized with. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Horley
1.0 out of 5 stars Rip-off
In the Kindle edition of this book, the George Gamow Memorabilia in the Appendix are vitually impossible to read. This is a disgrace!
Published on October 15, 2010 by Pan Tau
2.0 out of 5 stars More than you want to know
Normally I wouldn't take the time to add to a chorus of negative reviews, but this book was a doozy. Read more
Published on May 20, 2006 by A. J. Sutter
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat Interesting but Not a Must Read
This book is perhaps more interesting in giving a little window into the lives of a small community of wealthy elite scholars in that era of Cambridge, with their summers climbing... Read more
Published on January 3, 2006 by P. Narayanan
2.0 out of 5 stars Frank but somewhat mundane account of the quest for RNA
Having read the truly exciting and insightful account of the discovery of the double helical structure in Watson's `The Double Helix', I was looking forward to more insights on... Read more
Published on February 2, 2005 by Shalin Chanchani
1.0 out of 5 stars How silly and vacous can a grown man be?
I bought this book hoping to understand more about the circle of people who relates to the DNA problem; I found an author who thinks and talks like a l3 year old and has nothing to... Read more
Published on January 16, 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars A light-hearted reminiscense
Anyone expecting a stoic recollection of the works of a great scientist will find many such books available.This is not one of them. Read more
Published on September 8, 2003 by "devilzeye"
3.0 out of 5 stars No fireworks
Watson's second book centres on the quest for the structure of RNA, whereas his first one 'The double Helix' told us the story of the discovery of the DNA helix. Read more
Published on September 3, 2003 by Luc REYNAERT
2.0 out of 5 stars Ephemera, Embarrassment, and the Nobel prize
If ever one wanted a refereshing reminder of the difference between a creator's ideas and a creator's personality, this is it. Read more
Published on August 16, 2003 by Amazon Customer
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