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The Statue Within: An Autobiography Paperback – January 1, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0879694760 ISBN-10: 0879694769 Edition: Special

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A French biologist who views science as "the most elevating . . . revolt against the incoherence of the universe," Jacob won the 1965 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on gene regulation. This gripping, smoothly translated memoir records not only Jacob's professional achievements but seeks to reveal "the hardest kernel of his character," which he likens to an unfinished statue. Against a background of WW II and the dawn of DNA research, Jacob evokes and connects his former selvesthe solitary, imaginative, Parisian schoolboy, the groping adolescent and medical student, the Free French fighter in Africa and the severely wounded survivor who regained his health and discovered his vocation. Along with the intellectual ferment of the laboratory and exchanges with colleagues at international colloquia, Jacob surmises that the breadth of his personal experiences provided a philosophical urgency that contributed to his success as a scientist. A profound humanist, he describes genetic breakthroughs with the same elation as his Saharan battles and the wonder of parenthood.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this sensitive and thoughtful autobiography, Jacob, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine, examines the factors that formed his personality. He recounts how family, friends, infatuations, school, World War II, and his service in the Free French Army helped shape him into becoming a dedicated scientist. His work at the Pasteur Institute and collaboration with Jacques Monod provide a beautiful example of science as process: the testing of ideas in reality, the value of open international communication between researchers, and the importance of criticism. A book of wide appeal, enthusiastically recommended. Frank Reiser, Nassau Community Coll., Garden City, N.Y.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Autobiography
  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; Special edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879694769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879694760
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mary Barnstead on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Even though I am a molecular biologist, I began reading The Statue Within with a bit of prejudice that it would be good for me but not necessarily interesting. I figured it would be beneficial to learn more detail about the work of one of the founders of my field. Boy was I surprised! What I got instead was the examination of a complex and vivid personality, a life filled with great flux, confusion, but most of all, a passion for knowledge. Dr. Jacob started off as a reluctant medical student, went to England to escape the Nazi takeover of Paris, signed up with DeGaulle's unofficial French army and served as a medic in a messy, confusing war. Afterward he returned to Paris and his medical studies, but, lacking direction, found himself in the midst of new and interesting biological research about genetics. Fascinated and obsessed, he pestered and cajoled his way into a top laboratory at the Pasteur Institute and began to experiment. His work of course was fundamental to the understanding of the mechanical functioning of genetics, and he went on to win the Nobel. But the beauty of the book is that it isn't about the glory and accolades - it is about the thirst for knowledge and the collaborative bonds that form between bright minds. It is very good for a scientist to be reminded of the essential nature of curiosity and the trial and defense of ones hypotheses. I will be reading this one for the rest of my career!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jose Mendoza-ramirez on October 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I got a copy of this book long time ago and still remember almost as if happens yesterday. The positive effects of this book have in my life are unforgetable. Actually one of the reasons I decided to became a scientist was because the way Francois Jacob found his way in hard times. The book details his experiences during the second world war and after. In these days, we are in a new century and it seems that we haven't learn much about peace and respect and we have quite similar hard time as Francois Jacob describes. However, I totally believes that this book will be a positive hit for all students in Jr college and high schools and for sure will encourage the scientist of the future to take over this activity. The future of those that identify themselfs with Francois Jacob's life will be significant as time advance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Perfesser on April 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Highly readable and worthwhile memoir from one of the real founders of molecular biology. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in modern biology, lives of scientists, or history of science.
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Format: Paperback
Having taught Jacob's autobiography for many years now, I was quite startled to find the "review" that characterized it as rambling and disorganized. Nothing could be further from the reality of this text, which is brilliantly planned and carried out (and elegantly translated). The difficulty may lie, perhaps, in the willingness of a given reader to observe the text as if it was a rich and complex organism needing careful observation. Not surprisingly for a molecular biologist deeply engaging the work of the structuralists (a glance at Jacob's elegant _The Logic of Life_, which employs the historiographical periodization of Foucault's _Order of Things_, will make clear the attentiveness with which Jacob read the works of his colleagues in the human sciences), the book is at once a treatment of Jacob's life, of his science, and--not least--a meditation on language. Thus one must constantly be aware of the specific language, the variation in tone, manner, and strategy at each step.

Lest this make _Statue_ sound forbidding, it's also anything but that (and at times, utterly hilarious).
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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Aydin Orstan on June 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
François Jacob (born 1920) shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Medicine for "discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis". In the 1970s he developed the idea of evolution being a tinkerer, because, as opposed to how an engineer usually works, adaptations almost always arise not from scratch, but from the modifications of existing molecules, organs or metabolic processes (for example, see Jacob, 1977).

I bought Jacob's autobiography published in 1987 from a used bookstore hoping to learn a little bit more about a man who at some point in his life appears to have been an important scientist. Had I known boring would be a one-word summary of his life and ideas, or rather the way he presented them, I would have saved my $2 for a cup of coffee.

This is a tediously personal, rambling account of Jacob's life. The very 1st chapter begins depressingly with the memories of the sufferings and the death of a friend of Jacob's, continues with a discourse on suicide and them rambles on with fragments of events from his life. A perfect way to turn off your readers right from the beginning, don't you think so? And then there is excessive philosophizing throughout the book mostly in a disorganized manner. Here is an example: one long paragraph starts out with what appears to be an account of how Jacob tried to decide what kind of research he wanted to do in the beginning of his scientific career and ends with criticisms of Soviet genetics under Lysenko and French communists. Who cares?

Jacob appears to be an atheist preoccupied with death and dying and who may be subject to bouts of depression. I could only read randomly selected parts of the book and now wasting my time writing about it.

Jacob, F. 1977. Evolution and tinkering. Science 196:1161.
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