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"A historian has mused that the memory of man is too frail a thread on which to hang history; Judson's achievement, in drawing out the memories of so many participants in the epic of molecular biology and weaving them into a single robust skein, is magisterial. His work fittingly commemorates a golden age which already seems as remote as that of Darwin and Huxley."
"This reissue of a pioneering history of molecular biology, for some years out of print, is essentially a reprint of the first edition of 1979. Horace Judson has corrected a few minor errors (remarkably few for such a fact-filled book), given a sharper emphasis to Frederick Sangers' work on protein sequencing to reflect his (Judson's) conviction of its central importance, and added some personal details to a biographical sketch of Rosalind Franklin. Finally, an epilogue touches very briefly on developments in the 1970s that were the foundations for the subsequent vast expansion of molecular biologyEL. This epilogue obviously is not meant to bring Judson's original story up to the presentthat would take another large bookbut only to point readers to topics that Judson leaves for other historians to explore.
The Eighth Day of Creation has aged well, like a good vintage, and its very good to have it available again."
"The revelations of modern biology make a remarkable human and scientific story, and it has never been told better than in Horace Freeland Judson's The Eighth Day of CreationEL. What is especially fortunate is that he is a graceful writer with a keen sense of the human as well as the scientific dramaEL. I finished the book with a great sense of elation and a deepened sense of admiration for what the human family, at its best, can accomplish." (Review of the First Edition)
JEREMY BERNSTEIN, New York Times Book Review
"In his massive, marvelous history of molecular biologyEL Judson introduces us to many fiendishly clever experiments, some fiercely competitive rivalries, and some of the greatest scientific minds ever to ponder the mysteries of biologyEL. He has talked with nearly everyone involved, and The Eighth Day of Creation is a unique oral history of a scientific revolution; to my knowledge there has been nothing else like it." (Review of the First Edition)
LEON GUSSOW, Chicago Tribune
Top Customer Reviews
Machine", stands out for getting it: the passion, the
politics, and the personalities behind scientific
and technological progress, as well as its pitfalls and
cul de sacs. Judson's book, like no other I've read,
captures molecular biology as it is practiced.
I received this book as a gift in 1980 when I was a
college freshman hoping to major in biochemistry.
Today, much as I like to see the biomedical research I
do as a rational, deductive, "hypothesis-driven"
affair, there is unescapably the human element. Think
ego, and all of the other human qualities, respectable
or scorned. Have you seen genome sequencer J. Craig
Venter on the cover of Time (or was it Newsweek?). What
do you think put him there?
Science as a human endeavor was put forth theoretically
in 1962 by historian Thomas Kuhn in his "The Structure
of Scientific Revolutions". Complementing Kuhn, Judson
illustrates it in deliciously readable human terms. For
this reason this book is unmatched and is worth six,
not five, stars.
Max Perutz appears significantly in Judson's story. In
1990, as a beginning graduate student, I had the
priviledge of meeting and conversing with Perutz. He
was just as Judson portrayed him: modest, plodding,
dedicated, pursuing what he might learn from the
structure and properties of hemoglobin. Reading Judson
a decade earlier prepared me for this most important
meeting for me.
Though dated (the story stops about 1975), I heartily
recommend this book to anyone considering a career in
biomedical research. Judson successfully conveys the
human reality of that honorable profession. Some times
it hurts -- crystallographer Rosalind Franklin never
got her due -- but that's the state of the profession.
The brilliance of this book is that it investigates the people behind the science, and how they approach their problems. Some are matters of pure logic to deduce the results such as the deciphering of the genetic code, while others are pure perseverance such as coming up with the physical structure of myoglobin. But what makes the book powerful is that each discovery is a major accomplishment, but that it also uncovers the next question. And Judson follows the line of reasoning to answer the next question. It also explores the human side of science, the fierce faith that an answer exists and that they will find it. You get a flavor of science as it is practiced in James Watson's "The Double Helix" but you get the full meal here.
A warning, while the book goes to great lengths to explain the science, those lacking at least college biology may find the subject matter difficult to comprehend. More valuable for graduate students in any of the sciences, it is a complement to the facts by giving a perspective on how those facts are discovered.
Judson talked to the researchers responsible for all the major developments in molecular biology, and quotes extensively from his interviews, so the reader gets a feel for the human side of the great adventure, the sense of community and the rivalries, the frustrations and dead ends as well as the victories.
Be warned that it is not a light or short read. It demands the reader's close attention. Fortunately, though, it is a pageturner that (with only minor exceptions) keeps the reader gripped.
It should also be noted that the first edition of the book was written in the early seventies and, while no doubt Freedland has updated it, the main narrative ends in about 1972. There is a final chapter on developments since then, but it is of necessity quite brief and touches on a limited number of highlights.
I didn't make the move I was thinking about, but that course and the day we actually had a blob of DNA in our test tube, remains with me to this day. And this book put it all into context. Even today, it stands as a wonderful review of the process that resulted in a major "paradigm shift" (a la Kuhn) in biology. While The Double Helix is a fun, gossipy way to get into popular biology literature, The Eighth Day of Creation is where the real story is to be found.
Today, in the week of the bicentennial of Darwin's birth, I recommend this book as a great way to follow the thread from Darwin's deep insights of the mid-19th century to what we knew by the last 3rd of the 20th century. Obviously, the story continues from there, but the period covered by the book was seminal. And yes, some elementary biology is good background for reading it, but just as important is an interest in the social networks that underly an area of scientific endeavor. What Judson gives us is a picture of how the various scientists fed into each other's insights and experiment led into experiment. He's very good at describing important biological concepts -- readers with just a little biology under their belts will have no trouble following him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have always loved this book. I lost the original I had. This is an "OK" printing but is not on acid-free paper and the copy I bought through Amazon is yellowed... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Rob Carnes
Excellent book. I read it back in the early 1980's as an undergrad in college.. it was so exciting to read that I shifted gears in my college studies and became a scientist myself! Read morePublished 10 months ago by Dave
very detailed and informative history of the progression of biology during the 20th centuryPublished 11 months ago by Roman Villarreal
Definitive history of the development of the field. Amazing book if you are in or interested in the field.Published 22 months ago by Kirrily Peters
This book is a wonderful read. I find it very useful in my work which extends the discoveries that were made by Watson, Crick, Pauling, Monod, Nirenberg, and so many others. Read morePublished on March 23, 2014 by R. WHITBY
it arrived early and in fine condition. it gave me insight into DNA and was a good story on the scientists and their fields of discovery. Read morePublished on October 9, 2013 by Ruth Leighton