Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

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Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things.  Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine.  Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us."
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About the author

Lewis Thomas was a physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, administrator, educator, policy advisor, and researcher. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School, he was the dean of Yale Medical School and New York University School of Medicine, and the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute. He wrote regularly in the New England Journal of Medicine, and his essays were published in several collections, including The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, which won two National Book Awards and a Christopher Award, and The Medusa and the Snail, which won the National Book Award in Science. He died in 1993.
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4.5
12 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Feb 23, 1978
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Pages
160
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ISBN
9781101667057
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Essays
Science / Life Sciences / Cell Biology
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Physicists regularly invoke universal laws, such as those of motion and electromagnetism, to explain events. Biological and medical scientists have no such laws. How then do they acquire a reliable body of knowledge about biological organisms and human disease? One way is by repeatedly returning to, manipulating, observing, interpreting, and reinterpreting certain subjects—such as flies, mice, worms, or microbes—or, as they are known in biology, “model systems.” Across the natural and social sciences, other disciplinary fields have developed canonical examples that have played a role comparable to that of biology’s model systems, serving not only as points of reference and illustrations of general principles or values but also as sites of continued investigation and reinterpretation. The essays in this collection assess the scope and function of model objects in domains as diverse as biology, geology, and history, attending to differences between fields as well as to epistemological commonalities.

Contributors examine the role of the fruit fly Drosophila and nematode worms in biology, troops of baboons in primatology, box and digital simulations of the movement of the earth’s crust in geology, and meteorological models in climatology. They analyze the intensive study of the prisoner’s dilemma in game theory, ritual in anthropology, the individual case in psychoanalytic research, and Athenian democracy in political theory. The contributors illuminate the processes through which particular organisms, cases, materials, or narratives become foundational to their fields, and they examine how these foundational exemplars—from the fruit fly to Freud’s Dora—shape the knowledge produced within their disciplines.

Contributors
Rachel A. Ankeny
Angela N. H. Creager
Amy Dahan Dalmedico
John Forrester
Clifford Geertz
Carlo Ginzburg
E. Jane Albert Hubbard
Elizabeth Lunbeck
Mary S. Morgan
Josiah Ober
Naomi Oreskes
Susan Sperling
Marcel Weber
M. Norton Wise

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