Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives) (rough edge)

Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives) (rough edge)This is the third Eminent Lives book I ve read, following Christopher Hitchen s book on Jefferson and Paul Johnson s on George Washington Once again, I was not disappointed The book is fascinating, engaging, readable, and unromantic Most of all, I was not expecting to be inspired, but I was Crick didn t start making major discoveries until his thirties after a pretty mediocre young adulthood If you have any interest at all in the discovery of DNA, or in the history of modern biology, this is highly recommended Even if you don t, the book is short and details the life of someone amazing. The book was a light read, finished over a lazy weekend interspersed with binge eating and binge sleeping However, it was sort of interesting, sort of funny, like reading about a hip, clever grandpa who was very smart and was a playboy at the same time BTW, I had no idea that Crick got interested in Neuroscience at the end of his life Nor that he also played a huge role in defining the central dogma, or even the RNA codon code breaking He is such an inspiration as he is the kind of genius that is not math whiz like, butlike the hardworking type This was a nice change of perspective from The Double Helix written by Watson Isn t it nice to be able to read two different accounts of the same thing The writing was lucid and easy to follow, but I don t know if it made that much impression on me, therefore prodding me to reread it.There were some quotes that hit close to home for me Rather than believe that Watson and Crick made the DNA structure, I would rather stress that the structure made Watson and Crick After all, I was almost totally unknown at the time and Watson was regarded, in most circles, as too bright to be really sound But what I think is overlooked in such arguments is the intrinsic beauty of the DNA double helix It is the molecule which has style, quite as much as the scientists p 76 Crick once told a newspaper reporter in Hawaii Unlike the jet engine, which had to be invented, the DNA structure was always there Scientific discoverers are dispensable in a way that artists are not Gravity, America, and natural selection would all have been discovered by somebody else if Newton, Columbus, and Darwin had not gotten there first, whereas nobody would have written Hamlet, painted the Monalisa or composed the Ninth Symphony if Shakespeare, Leonardo, and Beethoven had not done so Yet it is precisely because scientists have to be first that their achievement is evenremarkable Shakespeare did not have to beat Marlowe to the first draft of Hamlet p 76 To those of you who may be vitalists I would make this prophecy what everyone believed yesterday and you believe today, only cranks will believe tomorrow p 146 This is the second book in the Eminent Lives series that I ve read and this one is as different from the first Bill Bryson s book on Shakespeare as Bryson is different from Ridley Bryson s forced to detail the life of the Bard from a scant historical record Ridley has an abundance of material in his detailed account of Francis Crick Discoverer of the Genetic Code , including Crick s family and collaborators.I was surprised in reading the account to get a detailed description of each of the steps to arriving at the structure of DNA and surprised too that its significance took so long to be confirmed and accepted by non geneticists Ridley sthan just a great fan his epilogue says, Because of the momentous nature of his discoveries, Francis Crick must eventually be bracketed with Galileo, Darwin and Einstein as one of the great scientists of all time Ridley says that it is evensurprising, given youthful mediocrity He attributes it to his relentless pursuit of evidence and his ability to synthesize a theory from that evidence.Crick s devotion to his science was such that he wanted to name his daughter Adenine But his wife won out and she would be named Gabrielle instead. . Seen through Ridley s excellent prose,Francis Crick shines in front of a reader in full 3D,his vitrues,his flaws,they are all here in this short,concise and wonderful book.Matt Ridley has quite a talent for characterization.It would be interesting to see him giving fiction writing a try. One fast way of judging biographies is by size Not always, but all too often, big fat ones contain fartiresome detail than the reader ever wants, while short pithy ones give just highlights of personalities and events, and leave the reader thirsting forBy and large, brief ones provide a clearer impression, at least when as carefully composed as this one is The physicist Wolfgang Pauli once wrote to a friend please excuse me for sending a long letter, I didn t have the time to write a short one Matt Ridley took the time, condensed Crick s life story while keeping clear both the science and the personality behind it no mean task and the result is inspiring and delightful Crick shared with James Watson the 1962 Nobel prize for discovering the double helix structure of DNA, the long stringy molecule in which all genetic information is encoded, as a sequence of 4 different chemical units Watson later published a controversial and brash account of the discovery, The Double Helix, and became a something of a public celebrity, leaving Crick half hidden in the shade This book, muchrecent Crick died in 2004 , not only restores the balance, but suggests that Crick s role in laying the foundation of modern genetics may have beenprofound than Watson s This is a biography, a life in science, and a reader may well wonder, what made Crick the great scientist he became Talent Sure, but talented people are not all that unusual In Crick s case, three things seem to have made a difference persistence, friendships and luck Persistence means a single minded pursuit of ideas, often led by nothan dimly formed guesses Guesses may turn out to be right on the mark, or else they may be false leads which peter out or are refuted, and then they must be abandoned, even if a lot of work had been invested Persistence also means constant reading of new publications, keeping notes and seeking clues, seeking out ideas the way a jigsaw addict looks for the missing piece that fits Friendship means seeking out people who share one s scientific vision, sharp enough to debate it meaningfully, partners whose critical interest in the same type of problems is often the essential goad that makes a researcher try his best It is a mutual relationship, bonding together scientists at the forefront of almost any active scientific field, and also usually spills over into the social arena James Watson, Maurice Wilkins, Sidney Brenner and others shared Crick s circle, but interestingly, Rosalind Franklin was there too, up to her untimely death Watson did not always treat her fairly in his book, and later writers debated whether her contribution to the discovery of DNA was properly recognized or not but the fact remains, Rosalind Franklin was Crick s friend to the end And luck, of course Luck in landing the right job, luck in meeting the right people, luck in asking the right questions even when mixed with wrong ones , and luck in finding the correct solutions Crick needed all of these, not just the last one, but as Pasteur famously said, chance favors the prepared mind His own efforts often helped tilt the balance He was a thinker and a dreamer, and if he did not uncover the innermost secrets of the brain, as he wished to do, maybe he was simply asking too much We still have no answers even now He and Watson unraveled the genetic role of DNA, and were rewarded with the Nobel prize Actually, that role had already been uncovered by Oswald Avery a decade earlier, though for some reasons the book get rather vague here see p 33 4 the biochemistry community remained unconvinced Watson and Crick convinced it by showing how the code was actually stored and duplicated, by the unwinding of a double spiral of identical chain molecules But if that chain held the code for creating proteins essential for life, how were these encoded And how was the gap bridged, between the DNA code and the actual creation of proteins That is where Crick was a major participant Many other talented biochemists took part in that effort, but Francis Crick was often the catalyst who orchestrated their teamwork First came the discovery of messenger RNA a long molecule somewhat resembling DNA, which could copy the sequence of units on a section of DNA and then carry it to a special cell unit, which read it and produced protein molecules according to the code it was given RNA was like a magnetic tape carrying instructions to a computer, or in an earlier day, a punched paper tape with a similar role But what did the code mean That was the hard part Proteins are chains of amino acids, nitrogen based molecules of which life uses 20 varieties DNA and RNA had 4 types of units two such units could encode only 16 varieties 4 times 4 , too few Three units, 64 varieties, too many Still, three was the correct answer often the same amino acid could be encoded inthan one way, and some encodings served as boundary markers, starting or ending the manufacture of a protein chain The result, given in a deceptively simple table on page 143, actually represents an enormous effort, by a large determined community, and was finished in 1966 You can learn a lot of science from this slim book But you will also learn a lot about personality, about creativity and about what it takes to lead a purposeful life By the end you will have understood a bit of the creative soul of a person you have never met, and maybe will wish you could have met him in life NOTE Note Francis Crick s last and unfinished quest was to understand the human brain A lucid review of the status of such research at the end of 2006 is presented in A Survey of the Brain, a series of 6 articles, in The Economist, 23 December 2006. Francis Crick invented life the double helix the explains DNA and how all life is linked The story told here is quite detailed, although a bit dry What emerges is the portrait of a man with enthusiasm for living, for conversation, for ideas Crick emerges as a man who depended on others to respond to and challenge his ideas, with the rare ability to at the right point synthesize those ideas is clearly written papers.As someone with no background in biology, or the genetic code or even why frogs legs when stimulated by a AAA battery, I would have likedexplanation of the principles The dry parts of the book are the technical, which seems to expect the only reader will be those now at least emerged in advanced studies. DNA The Double Helix A gripping account of their discovery and personal relationships at scientific level that made them possible Sometimes it s a hunch, but most times it is assiduously hard work and study, whether in Cambridge, UCL, Birkbeck or California that are the stuff of breakthroughs Above all, Crick teaches us that science is about visions I admire Crick s unbound curiosity and intellectual thirst Although from a human perspective I don t always agree with his viewpoints, his work ethic and network creation should be a model for today s academic and scientific circles Ridley does a splendid job of connecting all the dots and bringing together all the various strands of documentation relative to the men and women involved I shall definitely be reading . On the point of abandoning sending this one back,because I m so swamped with better books on hand I just never warmed to this one, but lots of other folks like it I m leaving it unrated, but caveat lector The weird cover photo doesn t help. Francis Crick, Who Died At The Age Of Eighty Eight In , Will Be Bracketed With Galileo, Darwin, And Einstein As One Of The Great Scientists Of All Time BetweenAndHe Made And Led A Revolution In Biology By Discovering, Quite Literally, The Secret Of Life The Digital Cipher At The Heart Of Heredity That Distinguishes Living From Non Living Things The Genetic Code His Own Discoveries Though He Always Worked With One Other Partner And Did Much Of His Thinking In Conversation Include Not Only The Double Helix But The Whole Mechanism Of Protein Synthesis, The Three Letter Nature Of The Code, And Much Of The Code ItselfMatt Ridley S Biography Traces Crick S Life From Middle Class Mediocrity In The English Midlands, Through A Lackluster Education And Six Years Designing Magnetic Mines For The Royal Navy, To His Leap Into Biology At The Age Of Thirty One While At Cambridge, He Suddenly Began To Display The Unique Visual Imagination And Intense Tenacity Of Thought That Would Allow Him To See The Solutions To Several Great Scientific Conundrums And To See Them Long Before Most Biologists Had Even Conceived Of The Problems Having Set Out To Determine What Makes Living Creatures Alive And Having Succeeded, He Immigrated At Age Sixty To California And Turned His Attention To The Second Question That Had Fascinated Him Since His Youth What Makes Conscious Creatures Conscious Time Ran Out Before He Could Find The Answer

Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington cor

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  • Hardcover
  • 224 pages
  • Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code (Eminent Lives) (rough edge)
  • Matt Ridley
  • English
  • 10 January 2018
  • 9780060823337

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