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What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery Paperback – July 10, 1990

ISBN-13: 978-0465091386 ISBN-10: 0465091385

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 10, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465091385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465091386
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #812,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crick's co-discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA (for which he shared a Nobel Prize with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins) was a maddening pursuit beset with false ideas, sloppy models, inconclusive results and fiascos. This will not come as news to readers of Watson's 1968 bestseller The Double Helix. Part memoir, part scientific primer, Crick's gracefully written reminiscence is more concerned with elucidating the intuitive leaps, feats of intellectual courage and perceptual skills that underlie the act of scientific discovery. Writing about his own career with uncommon modesty, he describes his current research into human consciousness and neuroanatomy; brain science of the 1980s, he concludes, is much like molecular biology of the '30s: the major questions remain largely unanswered. One wishes Crick were less reticent about his personal life. His occasional technical forays here into natural selection, the deciphering of the genetic code and theories of perception illuminate how science works. Illustrations.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA Crick and Jim Watson received the 1962 Nobel Prize for their discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Here, Crick details his early training as a physicist; explains how he came to be at Cambridge studying X-ray crystallography; and shows his great respect for other scientists such as Linus Pauling, Sir Lawrence Bragg, Max Perutz, and Sidney Brenner. The writing is clear and straightforward, even when the renderings become technical. The appendixes elaborate further on the detailed biochemistry of the subject. Crick relates both the problems and the successes that he and Watson incurred in their "mad pursuit" of the mysteries within the DNA molecule. He concludes this volume with a discussion of his work at the Salk Institute in California. A shorter version of Crick's life and work appears in Lewis Wolpert and Alison Richards' Passion for Science (Oxford, 1988), but the longer version will be of interest to more persistent students.Robyn Cook Schuster, Episcopal High School, Bellaire, Tex.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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At best, their work is "on the job training."
This book is more about Francis Crick than the discovery of the structure of DNA, I guess.
Fabio Mesquita
His later book in 1994, says much the same with a lighter tone, IMO.
jw wright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alex De Visscher on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
At first, I was reluctant about reading this book. What on earth could Francis Crick add to the story of the discovery of the double helix, that had not yet been told by his colleague, James Watson, in his famous book "The Double Helix"? A lot, as it turns out. In fact, the two books rarely overlap. Whereas Watson's book mainly relates his experiences as they worked their way towards discovery, Crick does what he does best: making comments. Also, Crick's book doesn't stop at the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA, as Watson's book does, but continues with the cracking of the genetic code.
Crick's book was written twenty years after Watson's book, and it shows. Watson's book contains a fresh story, the raw material out of which history is shaped. Crick's tale is a digested one: written after all the confusion of the moment had cleared up.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on August 8, 2005
Format: Paperback

THIS book, by Dr. Francis Crick (June 1916 to July 2004), is partly an autobiography and partly a science book. As for the science part, Crick elaborates:

"I have written [this book] both for my fellow scientists and for the general public [and] believe a [non-scientist] can easily understand most of what I discuss...My advice to the reader, should he or she become stuck in...a [difficult, scientific] passage, is either to persevere or to skip to the next chapter. Most of the book is fairly easy. Don't give up hope just because a few paragraphs seem a little hard to follow."

What, then, is the purpose of this book? Crick tells the reader:

"The main purpose of this book is to set out some of my experiences before and during the classical period of molecular biology, which stretched from the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953 till about 1966 when the genetic code...was finally elucidated."

(Molecular biology is a branch of biology that studies the chemical and physical principles associated with the composition, properties, and activities of molecules in living cells. The genetic code is the dictionary relating the nucleic acid {such as DNA and RNA} language to the protein language.)

Crick achieves his purpose admirably! He gives us an overview of his main, personal experiences and reveals his thoughts at each period in his life. I especially enjoyed his chapter entitled "The Gossip Test" and his memories about the "RNA Tie Club."

I found the science part especially well done. He explains the science that led up to the discovery of DNA's structure but goes beyond this, explaining such things as the different types of RNA, protein structure, the genetic code, and theory in molecular biology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Sharp TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been intrigued with Francis Crick after reading James Watson's "The Double Helix." Crick, with his non-stop talk and his booming laugh stepped out of those pages as a very unique personality as well as a unique scientist. Crick almost seems to have emerged a full-blown scientist like Athena from the head of Zeus. He was incredibly knowledgeable even as a somewhat elderly (over thirty) graduate student. In "Mad Pursuit" Dr. Crick takes your thumb and firmly imbeds it into the scientific pie In order to understand the background necessary to fathom the depths of the physical and three dimensional aspect of DNA, an understanding of crystal diffraction is necessary. Crick makes sure you're with him as he explains.

The atoms of a crystal cause an X ray beam to diffract into many specific directions, creating "spots." The resulting pattern can tell the expert the atoms present in that particular molecule and how they are arranged. DNA is relatively simple with the four bases, adenine paired with thymine, cytosine with guanine. Whatever the sequence on one helix strand, the other has to have the complementary sequence: always C with G and A with T. Crick says the relatively simple arrangement of only four bases was necessary for life to get established in the new universe, the simpler the better for achieving success.

The chapter called "How to live with a Golden Helix" is my favorite as Crick puts his spin on the famous events surrounding the phenomenal break through. He says that it it is DNA itself, not the scientists who are glamorous, although one could argue this point. Perhaps the crux of the discussion is Crick's take on Rosalind Franklin and the feud between her and Maurice Wilkins at King's College, London.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ghee Leng on February 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
We all ponder about the mysteries of life, and the discovery of DNA paves the way to a new level of understanding human can build on. And like human, Crick made all the mistakes he could make before getting there. More often than not, scientists write carefully about their paths to important discoveries, but Crick hides not this. Instead, he exposes all the little and big blunders that deviate him from the right thoughts, and how he manages them in order to maintain a clear mind. I would call this his seminal work that seeks to not just inspire, but to guide aspiring scientists who wish to fulfill their callings. However, I urge you, read this book, no matter you are a scientist or an artist, and listen to the stories of failures that finally led Crick to his successes. You will collect pieces of wisdom and useful techniques that might someday help you to achieve the breakthrough you've been seeking for in your field.
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