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1 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars booring, June 9, 2009
This review is from: The Statue Within: An Autobiography (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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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 22, 2013 4:23:34 PM PDT
Feng says:
It is amusing to read this review. It seems that the reviewer is used to reading Hollywood-like autobiographies that are filled with one adventure to another (how many of which are real or exaggerated are hard to distinguish), which is why reading a plain and introspective autobiography like this one is a bore.

Like other reviewers of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. To me, an informative autobiography would offer a glimpse into the inner thoughts of the author. Even better, it would allow to see the progression of the thinking process. This book is exactly that. It is very personal indeed. While reading the book, it feels like someone sitting right in front of you, sharing what he liked and did, and offered rationale through his perspective. I think that it is Dr. Jacob's intention to not write a one-dimensional memoir of how he made one decisive choice after another to be successful in science. Rather, it laid bare in front of us that he stumble along the way, but by persistence and hard work, he achieved more than he started with.
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Location: Germantown, MD United States

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