Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Popular Science
Journal of Clinical Investigation (pdf)
Jon Turney
Galton Institute
Guardian Unlimited

Andrew Brown

In the beginning was the worm

Most animals are pretty complicated things, and its almost impossible to follow how they develop from a single cell. That's why scientists have chosen a very simple creature, the tiny nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans to study in detail. Andrew Brown's book 'In the beginning was the worm' describes how this has been done, looking at the cell by cell examination of the organism, its growth, and more recently the sequencing of its DNA. The book is written for a non-technical readership, and it recommended to anyone who is interested in the progress science is making in understanding the details of living things.

Brown is a journalist, and writes as someone reporting on the science rather than someone who was involved in doing it. I felt that this led to him standing back from the action too much and losing the thread of what was going on. But the book did well in portraying the lives of scientists working on C. elegans, and in particular the three 2002 Nobel prize winners, John Sulston, Bob Horowitz and Sydney Brenner.

For those wanting to go further the book has only a short section of sources, with a web address for further references - but unfortunately this doesn't seem to be there. info
Hardcover 248 pages  
ISBN: 0231131461
Salesrank: 3160023
Weight:0.25 lbs
Published: 2003 Columbia University Press
Amazon price $31.65
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Paperback 256 pages  
ISBN: 0743415981
Salesrank: 1430893
Weight:0.49 lbs
Published: 2004 Pocket Books
Marketplace::Used from £0.06
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Hardcover 248 pages  
ISBN: 0231131461
Salesrank: 2869869
Weight:0.25 lbs
Published: 2003 Columbia University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 130.11
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 76.49:Used from CDN$ 9.95
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Product Description
This is the story of how three men won the Nobel Prize for their research on the humble nematode worm C. elegans; how their extraordinary discovery led to the sequencing of the human genome; how a global multibillion-dollar industry was born; and how the mysteries of life were revealed in a tiny, brainless worm.

In 1998 the nematode worm―perhaps the most intensively studied animal on earth―was the first multicellular organism ever to have its genome sequenced and its DNA mapped and read. "When we understand the worm, we will understand life," predicted John Sulston, one of the three Nobel laureates, and his prediction proved astonishingly accurate. Four years later, the research that led to this extraordinary event garnered three scientists a Nobel Prize. Along with Robert Horvitz and Sydney Brenner, Sulston discovered the phenomenon of programmed cell death in the worm, an essential concept that explains how biological development occurs in animal life and, as Horvitz later showed, how it occurs in human life. C. elegans is about as simple as an animal can be, but understanding its genetic organization is helping to reveal the mechanisms of life and, by extension, the mechanisms of our own lives. In the Beginning Was the Worm shows that in order to unlock the secrets of the human genome we must first understand the worm.

But this story is about more than just the worm. It is about how an eccentric group of impassioned scientists toiled in near anonymity for years, driven only by a deep passion for knowledge and scientific discovery. It is the story of countless hours of research, immense ambition, and one of the greatest discoveries in human history.