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DNA: The Secret of Life Hardcover – April 1, 2003
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What makes DNA different from hordes of competitors purporting to help readers understand genetics is that it is written by none other than James Watson, of Watson and Crick fame. He and his co-author Andrew Berry have produced a clear and easygoing history of genetics, from Mendel through genome sequencing. Watson offers readers a sense of immediacy, a behind-the scenes familiarity with some of the most exciting developments in modern science. He gleefully reports on the research juggernaut that led to current obsessions with genetic engineering and cloning. Aided by profuse illustrations and photos, Watson offers an enthusiastic account of how scientists figured out how DNA codes for the creation of proteins--the so-called "central dogma" of genetics. But as patents and corporations enter the picture, Watson reveals his concern about the incursions of business into the hallowed halls of science.
After 1975, DNA was no longer solely the concern of academics trying to understand the molecular underpinnings of life. The molecule moved beyond the cloisters of white-coated scientists into a very different world populated largely by men in silk ties and sharp suits.
In later chapters, Watson aims barbs at those who are concerned by genetic tinkering, calling them "alarmists" who don't understand how the experiments work. It is in these arguments that Watson may lose favor with those whose notions of science were born after Silent Spring. Nevertheless, DNA encompasses both sides of the political issues involved in genetics, and Watson is an enthusiastic proponent of debate on the subject. The book accompanies a 5-part PBS series. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Who better than James Watson to lead a guided tour of DNA? When he and his English colleague, Francis Crick, discovered the double helix structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, little could they imagine that a mere 50 years later scientists would be putting the finishing touches on a map of the human genome. In this magisterial work, Watson, who won the Nobel Prize with Crick for their discovery, guides readers through the startling and rapid advances in genetic technology and what these advances will mean for our lives. Watson covers all aspects of the genome, from the layout of four simple bases on the DNA molecule through their complex construction into genes, then to the mechanisms whereby proteins produced by genes create our uniquely human characteristics-as well as the genetic mutations that can cause illnesses or inherited diseases like Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease. Watson may have mellowed a little over the years since he displayed his youthful brashness in The Double Helix, but he still isn't shy about taking on controversial subjects. He criticizes biotech corporations for patenting genes, making diagnostic medical procedures horribly expensive and damping further basic research. He notes that while China and other countries with large populations to feed have eagerly grasped the potential of genetically modified foodstuffs, America squandered $100 million on a recall of taco shells and the genetically modified corn used in them. He pleads passionately for the refinement and widespread use of prenatal genetic testing. Watson will probably provoke the most controversy with his criticism of scientists, corporations and government funding sources for their avoidance of important areas of research-notably the genetics of skin coloration-for political reasons. Every reader who wants to understand their own medical future will want to read this book. 100 color and b&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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And thank you to the 3rd party bookseller Aberg books - the book is out of print but was in perfect new condition.
Watson and Crick beat Chemistry's superstar, Linius Pauling, in the race to decipher DNA's chemical structure in 1953. Since then, science has made amazing progress in broading and applying that knowledge. Watson tells that story in this book. He, himself, played very important roles in pushing the scientific envelope, including his leadership of the Human Genome Project.
In the last second, our bodies each produced millions of new cells. Watson explains how this process works, starting with the reading of the DNA code and the activities of messenger and transfer RNA in assembling a protein. We humans, were not content to merely understand this process. We audaciously put those tiny factories to work for us. We learned how to splice DNA at a point if our choosing. We learned how to insert a gene of our choosing into a bacteria's DNA. We put the cell's factories to work for us making medical products. If we only had a minute sample of DNA, we learned how to make millions of copies of it. In short, we created the biotechnology industry.
Watson tells how Amgen and Genentech raced to be first to produce human insulin by recombinant DNA processing. It was another race against time.
He tells about the Human Genome Project (HGP), which was perhaps more ambitious than putting a man on the moon. Consider that our DNA is billions of letters long. Enormous breakthrough were made in the chemical analysis techniques. The sequencing rate was made faster and faster by brilliant breakthroughs. The HGP, once thought to be impossible, was finished ahead of schedule.
DNA technology will replace many of today's medical techniques in the years ahead. It allows us to understand the enemy and to attack it in a precise manner. The cure of cancers and AIDS will come from DNA technology. Heart disease too. Watson explains the hows and whys of future medical advances.
Gene therapy is in its infancy. Imagine having all the cells in your body made more perfect.
Tracing human origins, finding the ancestral paths of living things, fingerprinting with DNA, forecasting the health of a human embryo, and other topics are also covered in this book.
James Watson: He be the man!!
Reviewed by Ralph D. Hermansen, 12-01-07
I can appreciate the difficulty of setting the scope for a subject that can expand in so many directions, but the focus of several chapters still seem less than completely coherent. The result is that those chapters felt out of place... but on the other hand they were interesting enough in themselves.
Oddly, Watson never tried to support his thesis that DNA is the secret of life, rather than one of the products of life.
On a subject as rapidly changing as the study of DNA, individual years make a difference in the content. The book I bought was a later edition than the one the local library had and it was noticeably updated.
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James Watson, co-founder of the structure of the DNA molecule, begins with a discussion of the origins of genetics.Read more