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A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life (Allen Lane Science) Hardcover – 25 Oct 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 25 Oct 2007
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (25 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997248
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,551,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'This book marks the beginning of something new. It is the first molecular biography...Venter's account is never less than engaging' -- Sunday Times

`maverick, publicity hound, risk-taker, brash, controversial, genius, manic, rebellious, visionary, audacious, arrogant, feisty, determined, provocative. His autobiography shows they are all justified' -- Nature

`A Life Decoded is a page-turner throughout' -- New Scientist

`A wonderfully original work...brims with entertaining revelations about the feuds, fights and friendships that underlie great research projects' -- FT Magazine

`a voyage of discovery: a description of code-breaking as complex as the cracking of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and no less important'
-- Guardian

About the Author

J. Craig Venter is one of the leading scientists of the 21st century. He has made visionary contributions in genomic research. He is founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Perhaps I'm being unkind but Craig is one of those people whose every life experience somehow has to surpass those of anyone else, you know the sort, his story always tops yours, his anecdote is always the ultimate. He's done it faster, bigger and better than you. But that's my only complaint - this is a fascinating biography set in the fast growing field
of molecular biology and it must be well written because it held my attention despite my complete ignorance of biology, molecular or otherwise. Of course its all about Craig and the essential point is that he pioneered the full sequencing/reading of a human genome (program code). Hithertoo I had the impression that Craig was an unscrupulous villain tryng to steal the secrets of our DNA and lock them up for profit. This book sets the record straight. Craig has been sinned against - on the one hand by greedy capitalists who sought to exploit him - and on the other by petty bureaucrats abetted by jealous academics who sought to stiffle him or steal his laurels. No wonder Craig has to pop off on his latest yacht every now and again and have a larger scale man v. nature adventure - but you can skip his yacht excursions without compromising the rest of the book. Finally, I'm sorry to say that Big Jim Watson doesn't emerge very well from this tale. I've long harboured (Cold Spring Harbour ?) a fond image of Watson and Crick rushing into the Eagle that famous Saturday lunchtime in January 1953 and woofing back pints of Abbott to celebrate discovering the meaning of life - and no one in the pub knew what they were talking about! Now my image is a bit dashed, as the "father" of DNA, Jim was no help to Craig's decodering endevours at all - it looks like he was obstructive and possibly devious. Another hero struck off. Good job Craig can take his place. This book is about Craig and molecular biology so far - his next book is going to be about the future. Bring it on !
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Format: Hardcover
Although essentially a biography of Craig Venter, the book is more than this. It is an up-to-date account of the very latest developments in genomic science. The book is also one side of the somewhat accrimonious dispute regarding the ownership of the human genome. Venter, the enfent-terrible of science, gives a detailed and exciting blow by blow account of the race to sequence the human genome. On one side the entrepreneurs and on the other side the government sponsored consortium determined to keep the genome in the public domaine. Although primarily a book for the initiated, this is a fast-moving thriller written by a born story-teller. At times the science is challenging for those without prior knowledge or interest in the field. Throughout however, there is Venter at the sharp-end of science continually pressing forward with new ideas, breaking all the existing rules and inventing new ones as he goes. Throughout the book there are clever references on the side, to various genes from Venters own genome which he has sequenced. Venter gives a description of the relevant gene and the implications of the particular genetic variant in terms of his future health. This is in itself unique.

Venter is a man driven, both in the laboratory and behind the wheel of his expensive yachts which he sails with a passion. There is only one thought in Venter's mind- success at any price. This book is a must for anyone wanting a current perspective of genomic science written by one of the leaders in the field.
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Format: Paperback
There was a lengthy period between my purchase of this book and my reading of it. I feared that an autobiography by the Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute may be a touch self-aggrandizing. The dust cover announces unreassuringly: "praise for J. Craig Venter." In addition, I had carried with me the impression of a man who had ruthlessly pursued the sequencing of the human genome through the private sector, combining profit with self-promotion, seeking a place in history while making a ton of money into the bargain. The book did not disappoint on these counts - Venter's name will forever be associated with this remarkable feat of technology and he did end up with a very big yacht. Nevertheless, despite the unpromising portents, the book offered insights that I had not expected, both into the man and his method and made the read worthwhile.

Of course his text is a setting straight of records and a settling of old scores: major figures such as James Watson, Francis Collins and John Sulston are all, let's say critically appraised, along with Venter's various business partners, ex-colleagues and even ex-partners. He leaves no-one of consequence unscathed. However, in his defence he no doubt suffered at times unjustly at the hands of PR machines and he did, one way or another, accelerate the human genome project to its conclusion, if only as a consequence of others wanting to keep the control from his grasp. All of this one can analyse and conjecture on ad infinitum, probably without conclusion or perhaps even merit. The book does nevertheless find its place on the shelf of those telling the story of one of the most remarkable scientific achievements of all time.

Undoubtedly though the most engaging and formative parts of J.
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