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James Watson

DNA: The secret of life

James Watson is famous as one of the partnership responsible for the discovery of the structure of DNA, and his book 'The Double Helix' telling the story of that discovery is an international bestseller. In 'DNA: The secret of life' he describes some of the applications that our knowledge of DNA has generated. Its become a vast subject area, and at times I found it difficult to decide how to approach the book - whether each chapter could be read alone or whether they combined into a single thread. However it's well written and maintains the readers interest through its nearly 500 pages. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a readable overview of the current state of genetics.

Many of the areas of modern genetics spawn controversies, and Watson doesn't shy away from giving his point of view on these subjects. This seems to be that we should make the maximum use of the new knowledge which we are gaining, for instance in the development of genetically modified foods and the screening of fetuses for genetic diseases. He also favours the 'nature' side of the 'nature vs nurture' question more than most people. His point of view might seem rather extreme to some people, but it's well argued and deserves to be read by those with opinions on both sides of the arguments.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0375710078
Salesrank: 780904
Weight:1.75 lbs
Published: 2003 Knopf
Marketplace:New from $19.98:Used from $1.65
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 512 pages  
ISBN: 0099451840
Salesrank: 28499
Weight:0.84 lbs
Published: 2004 Arrow
Amazon price £11.99
Marketplace:New from £7.00:Used from £0.47
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 464 pages  
ISBN: 0375710078
Salesrank: 2349421
Weight:1.75 lbs
Published: 2004 Knopf
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 55.73:Used from CDN$ 27.50
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Product Description
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.

Facing a future of choices and social and ethical implications of which we dare not remain uninformed, we could have no better guide than James Watson, who leads us with the same bravura storytelling that made The Double Helix one of the most successful books on science ever published. Infused with a scientist’s awe at nature’s marvels and a humanist’s profound sympathies, DNA is destined to become the classic telling of the defining scientific saga of our age.


From the Hardcover edition.