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Georgina Ferry

Max Perutz and the Secret of Life

Max Perutz wrote a great deal during long scientific life, but didn't get around to writing his autobiography. When he found he was terminally ill he approached Georgina Ferry to write his biography. Max Perutz and the Secret of Life is the result.

Ferry tells of Perutz's early struggles to establish himself. As a refugee from Nazi Austria he was deported as an enemy alien for a while. Fortunately there was great interest in molecular biology after World War II, and Perutz became head of a research group in Cambridge that became the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Ferry describes the benefits of his style of management - hire good people and give them the resources they need - a style that led to Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. The molecule that Perutz himself worked on was haemoglobin - we find out about the many years he spent trying to find it's structure, for which he won the Nobel prize, and then to work out how it transported oxygen. I felt that the fact that he did so much work on one molecule helped to add cohesion to the book. Ferry also looks at some of the negative sides of Perutz's character - how as he became more successful he would try to block those who disagreed with his ideas. Overall I felt that the book is a well written account of someone who played a significant part in the development of 20th century science.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 304 pages  
ISBN: 0879697857
Salesrank: 1821589
Weight:1.35 lbs
Published: 2007 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
Amazon price $36.65
Marketplace:New from $27.30:Used from $20.28
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 368 pages  
ISBN: 1844134318
Salesrank: 1624903
Weight:1.15 lbs
Published: 2008 Pimlico
Marketplace::Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0879697857
Salesrank: 1322697
Weight:1.35 lbs
Published: 2007 Cold Spring Harbor Lab Press
Amazon price CDN$ 49.69
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 43.46:Used from CDN$ 29.94
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Product Description
Few scientists have thought more deeply about the nature of their calling and its impact on humanity than Max Perutz (1914-2002). Born in Vienna, Jewish by descent, lapsed Catholic by religion, he came to Cambridge in 1936 to join the lab of the legendary Communist thinker J.D. Bernal. There he began to explore the structures of the molecules that hold the secret of life. In 1940, he was interned and deported to Canada as an enemy alien, only to be brought back and set to work on a bizarre top secret war project. In 1947, he founded the small research group in which Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA: under his leadership it grew to become the world-famous Laboratory for Molecular Biology. Max himself explored the protein hemoglobin and his work, which won him a Nobel Prize in 1962, launched a new era of medicine, heralding today's astonishing advances in the genetic basis of disease. Max Perutz's story, wonderfully told by Georgina Ferry, brims with life. It has the zest of an adventure novel and is full of extraordinary characters. Max was demanding, passionate and driven but also humorous, compassionate and loving. Small in stature, he became a fearless mountain climber; drawing on his own experience as a refugee, he argued fearlessly for human rights; he could be ruthless but had a talent for friendship. An articulate and engaging advocate of science, he found new problems to engage his imagination until weeks before he died aged 88.