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The Art of Genes: How Organisms Make Themselves Paperback – August 17, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0192862082 ISBN-10: 0192862081

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192862081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192862082
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"It is arguable that the most important advance in biology in the past twenty years has been the revolution in our understanding of the mechanisms of development.... Developmental biology has been transformed from a field in which ingenious manipulative experiments generated speculations about unobservable underlying causes, such as gradients and prepatterns, to one in which we have a very detailed knowledge of what is actually going on at the molecular and cellular level. Enrico Coen has written a book that attempts, with considerable success, to convey the essence of this revolution to the lay reader. It will also be of great interest to those biologists...who have only a superficial knowledge of the subject."TREE


About the Author


Enrico Coen is Professor in the Genetics Department at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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This is very non-technical, and more entertaining.
Ken Braithwaite
Certainly there is much interesting material in this book, but to a very great extent it can stand on its own.
James R. Mccall
The reader acquires a new appreciation of development using the mind's color receptors and chemical senses.
Luis P. Fernandez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By G. Korthof on July 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I always had the feeling that evolution was the inventor of new things and development was a secondary problem of how to build an organism from information already present in the fertilised egg. Now I know what problems need to be solved in building a multicellular organism from a single cell in the first place. Enrico Coen magnificently explains how the head-tail, ventral-dorsal, left-right and inside-outside axis is build out of nearly nothing. The subtitle of the book is a perfect illustration of the task: How organisms make themselves (without help from outside). The problem looked only harder since the discovery of DNA : the information in DNA is one-dimensional, so how to build a 3-dimensional organism on the basis of that? No wonder that people in previous centuries saw miniature humans in egg or sperm. But since that 'solution' was refuted, the problem confronted us again: how do organisms make themselves? Enrico Coen gives deep insights with the help of metaphors derived from art and with the necessary scientific details and without confusing us with too many complexities. Coen explains the crucial role of genes without being a genetic reductionist. His examples are both from animals and plants, wich I find an advantage. This book is an achievement. The only criticism I have is that the main metaphor Coen uses is about colors and all the illustrations are in black-and-white! At least the hardback edition should have color illustrations!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James R. Mccall on November 4, 2004
Format: Library Binding
This book takes on one of the big mysteries: how does each animal or plant (or fungus!) turn a single fertilized egg cell into its convoluted, differentiated self? Understanding of development is new and still partial. Over the last twenty years or so scientists have been able to piece together the way certain well-studied organisms (the noble fruit fly, of course, the snapdragon, and a couple others) come to become from a single cell, how a growing body finds its orientation, its myriad internal shapes and differences, without any guiding intelligence. As we see this story unfold, we must again sit back in simple awe at the astronomical possibilities of protein, which makes the tools, the materials, the very jigs and benches where life comes together.

Coen does a good job in taking us on a tour of the issues that will be in play here. Biologists have been struggling for a long time with development, but it is only with the sophistication of modern chemical analysis and the viewpoint of DNA, RNA, and protein machines that the marvelous self-direction of the mechanism is starting to become evident. Amazingly, the flows of proteins from cell to cell via interdicting membranes, the interactions between proteins in one cell and those in another, the ability of a protein to change another, and -- singly or in combination -- to turn on or off specific genes (that do themselves make proteins that may furher elaborate this process) are sufficiently rich methods to build a body. Clearly such an assertion requires much detailed explication, and the author does provide this. But here I think he goes wrong by introducing an analogy to explain development.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael L. Wyatt on April 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This small book does nothing short of explaining the details of developmental biology in such an approachable synthesis that it should be required reading for all biology majors and their professors. Coen's understanding of his subject is obvious, but his ability to convey it is the amazing gem of this book. Success achieved!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael O'Kane on December 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've read a number of popular books on genetics. If you really want to know how a gene's influence unfolds in your body, this is the definitive book to read. Nobody is better than Dr. Coen at explaining how genes work in colorful metaphors that the layperson can understand. He writes concise summaries at the end of every chapter (Why don't other popular science writers do that?) Highly recommended reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luis P. Fernandez on August 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Perhaps not the first time, but certainly one of the most eloquent and thought-provoking exposition of the wonderfully complex subject of biological development. The author first seems to invoke a parallel relationship of development and creativity as yin and yang, but finishes off the book with an intriguing explanation that human creativity is itself a byproduct, consequence, or continuum of development.
The Biology undergrad or grad student may have grasped the fundamentals of developmental biology from "Molecular Biology of the Cell" (Alberts, Watson, et al), "Developmental Biology" (Gilbert), or "Genes, Embryos, and Evolution" (Gerhart and Kirschner). Enrico Coen's book, however, certainly provides a fresh outlook of plant and animal development rich with comparisons to artistic creativity, hidden colors, scents and sensitivities, interpretations, elaborations, and refinements. This outlook also raises the question of whether genes that dictate development can be compared to instruction manuals or artists painting their canvas---in the case of development, the instruction and execution are inseparable, and the genes are affected by the organisms they produce in a similar way that the artist responds to his/her own creation.
Anyone with a molecular biology background can worry less about the details of gene regulation, differential gene expression, and protein-DNA and protein-protein interactions. By focusing instead on metaphors or analogies in art and creativity, delving in Dr. Coen's thoughts becomes an enjoyable exercise in imagination. On the other hand, readers who need more grounding in basic molecular biology may find the analogies daunting, but Dr.
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