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DNA: The Secret of Life Paperback – 1 Apr 2004


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DNA: The Secret of Life + Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters + The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition
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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099451840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099451846
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

DNA: The Secret of Life is released to coincide with the 50th anniversary one of the most momentous breakthroughs in the history of science. In 1953 at The Eagle pub in Cambridge, two jubilant students professed to have found "the secret of life". Hardy regulars may have raised half an eyebrow at such wild claims--perhaps putting it down to the drink talking--but, even today, it is hard to comprehend the significance of the discovery and the impact that it has had on our world.

As a book commemorating the unravelling of the structure of DNA, it merely gives the story so far--from the legendary lounge bar to a glittering future for genetics and germ-line gene therapy. It's no surprise that Watson--as the Granddaddy of DNA research--is fully behind all such efforts and scornful of its detractors. Both Watson and Crick are uncompromisingly loyal to the tenets of their religion. Crick famously quit Churchill College, Cambridge when they went ahead with plans for a new chapel, saying he saw "no reason to perpetuate mistakes from the past" and early on in the book Watson makes his position clear:

Does life have some magical, mystical essence… is there something divine at the heart of the cell that brings it to life? The double helix answered that question with a definitive No.
DNA works as a light, easy-to-read introduction to the field of genetics, but those with rudimentary knowledge and an interest in delving deeper--or those wanting a more even discussion of the ethical problems raised by gene therapy--may be disappointed. While the book won't become seminal in the way that The Double Helix has, it is nevertheless useful and above all timely. And who wouldn't want to buy a book by the abrasive, ambitious and outspoken founding father? --Dan Green --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An immediate classic" (E. O. Wilson)

"A terrific story of competitive bickering, intrigue, damaged reputations and unacknowledged contributions- It is also wonderfully written- an ideal primer" (Irish Times)

"Marvellous and comprehensive" (Nature)

"There are few better introductions than this" (New Scientist)

"A wonderful book- [which] bears favourable comparison with Jacob Bronowski's The Ascent of Man." (Sunday Telegraph)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Jun. 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors state in the introduction "We have tried to write for a general audience, intending that someone with zero biological knowledge should be able to understand the book's every word." Hmmmm, really? But to be fair, it would be unreasonable to expect a book subtitled "The Secret of Life" to be an easy read - and it isn't. But if ever there was a book worth sweating blood over to understand, this is it!
The science outlined in this book - which I will not attempt to precis! - is at times both mind-boggling and mind-blowing. But some of the stories of how the scientists involved made these remarkable discoveries are almost as fascinating as the discoveries themselves. There are clearly some towering intellects working in this field. And in view of the fact that genes are apparently implicated to some extent in all causes of mortality except accidents (P166), this is no bad thing.
From the literary point of view, this is an extremely well written book, characterised by wit, humour, compassion, enthusiasm, and - in some instances (eg on the subject of "genome profiteers") - a good deal of warranted vituperation. The book also seems in part to have been used as a vehicle for the settling of some old scores - always amusing to the disinterested reader!
But why no glossary? There is a bewildering mass of new terminology for the general reader to absorb - eg messenger RNA, transfer RNA, bacteriophages, restriction enzymes, repressor molecules, ribosomes, RNA polymerase, reverse transcriptase, etc - and although it's possible to keep reminding oneself of the meaning of these esoteric terms by use of the index, this is a bit of an imposition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Kendall on 23 Jun. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Everyone can and should read this book it's not too complex for the average person to understand. For example we expect a jury in a criminal trial, to assess and understand complex forensic DNA evidence. The size of the target particle that is used in police forensic PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) is so small that it would be invisible to the naked eye and would float in front of your face in thin air. Dr Watson explains how police forensic scientists can extract, "a full copy" of a suspect's DNA from such a tiny sample. PCR amplifies the original sample in a chain reaction.

The explanation of how the RNA with it's extra letter "U" is a single strand structure and not a double helix. This RNA imformation in one sited example is exported from one part of a cell, to another department in that cell, where a kind of biological typewriter, types up the letters to make the protein haemoglobin, hey, this is fascinating stuff. The inner world of the living cell is a miracle.

Yet these DNA miracles take place inside the trillions and trillions of cells inside our bodies every second of the day. Another fact to emerge from the book is that a full copy of our entire DNA record is kept inside each and every one of our trillions of cells.

This book should make you think about how complex life is. This book will expand your awareness and consciousness exponentially in all directions and lead you on to many other new lines of research on Youtube and Google..

This book discloses truly amazing facts. Like that, living celsl read the DNA code three letters at a time, not four, or two letters, but three. The book documents the path that led to Watson and Crick to triumphantly propose that the DNA molecule had a double helix structure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J Thomas on 8 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, excellent introduction to the exciting world of DNA, written in a way that's easy to follow. Would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about DNA and cell biology (or who wants to refresh their knowledge!).
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By TK on 16 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutely fascinating! Though sometimes quite difficult to understand, I often have to re-read passages to get the full meaning (I have an A a gcse biology). It is suitable for someone with a minimal biological background, although it does assume some knowledge. As a previous reviewer mentions, a glossary would be very useful for quick reference!

In conclusion, If DNA is something you are interested by, where better to start that a Nobel Prize winners overview?
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By liz on 5 April 2005
Format: Paperback
I bought this thinking I might read a chapter or so but found myself unable to put it down. It is really well written and keeps your attention. The colour plates add more interest.
Each chapter deals with a different aspect of DNA. I learnt so much by reading it and have recommended it to everyone I know.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 5 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This was a truly inspirational book. Watson is an extremely beautiful, elegant writer. I myself am an evolutionist. I have worked very hard to achieve it. But when I was able to put together all the scientific evidence myself and truly understand what DNA , mRNA, rRNA, trna, the 20 l amino acids that the mammalian eukaryote uses to construct a polypeptide chain, that eventually becomes a protein, what meiosis and meitosis is, what a gamete is, what a somatic cell is, (haploid,diploid), chromosomes, chromatids, centromeres, telomeres. I could go on.

All I can say is this my daughter will not grow up in ignorance and the silly supernatural. Life is nothing more than simple biochemical processes that obey all physical laws. We are nothing more than a product of evolution controlled by natural selection. And as Darwin wrote "there is wonder in this view of life" . Natural selection has given us this opportunity. The discovery and then the working out of the double helix enabled us to read the book of life. Now science is allowing us to understand it. Now the planet needs to grow up and let scientist use this knowledge for the good of humankind.

If I can understand what an allele is, what homozygous dominant/recessive, heterozygous, the phospholipid bilayer, mutation, point mutation (single nucleotide polymorphism) then any one can understand it .Yes it doesn't come to you over night. It takes a bit of work. But it's so worth it. My time in this universe isn't long
I refuse to waste it on silliness. I hope my daughter one day becomes a geneticist or a microbiologist. Not for money like the Craig ventors of the world but because its the right thing to do. For the good of this planet and the living biological organisms that live in it.

Science taught me true morality, through science and reason.
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