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DNA: The Secret of Life Hardcover – April 1, 2003
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Fifty years ago, James D. Watson, then just twentyfour, helped launch the greatest ongoing scientific quest of our time. Now, with unique authority and sweeping vision, he gives us the first full account of the genetic revolution?from Mendel?s garden to the double helix to the sequencing of the human genome and beyond.Watson?s lively, panoramic narrative begins with the fanciful speculations of the ancients as to why ?like begets like? before skipping ahead to 1866, when an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel first deduced the basic laws of inheritance. But genetics as we recognize it today?with its capacity, both thrilling and sobering, to manipulate the very essence of living things?came into being only with the rise of molecular investigations culminating in the breakthrough discovery of the structure of DNA, for which Watson shared a Nobel prize in 1962. In the DNA molecule?s graceful curves was the key to a whole new science.Having shown that the secret of life is chemical, modern genetics has set mankind off on a journey unimaginable just a few decades ago. Watson provides the general reader with clear explanations of molecular processes and emerging technologies. He shows us how DNA continues to alter our understanding of human origins, and of our identities as groups and as individuals. And with the insight of one who has remained close to every advance in research since the double helix, he reveals how genetics has unleashed a wealth of possibilities to alter the human condition?from genetically modified foods to genetically modified babies?and transformed itself from a domain of pure research into one of big business as well. It is a sometimes topsy-turvy world full of great minds and great egos, driven by ambitions to improve the human condition as well as to improve investment portfolios, a world vividly captured in these pages.
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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.
I found Watson's writing style easily approachable and targeted to the advanced high school or college educated reader. The interjection of personal stories and encounters that Watson had with various researchers provided insights that only one of the discoverers of the structure of this molecule could provide. Watson has often been viewed as a polarizing figure, and his writing pulls no punches on certain topics such as the ethical nature of genetic testing, evolution of humans, the race to describe the human genome, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While making clear his own views on these topics, he provides enough information that the critical reader is left with a feeling that many of the dilemmas presented by the DNA molecule are complex and have no "right" answer.
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