Generation: The Seventeenth-Century Scientists Who Unraveled the Secrets of Sex, Life, and Growth

Bloomsbury Publishing USA
3
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Generation is the story of the exciting, largely forgotten decade during the seventeenth century when a group of young scientists-Jan Swammerdam, the son of a Protestant apothecary, Nils Stensen (also known as Steno), a Danish anatomist who first discovered the human tear duct, Reinier de Graaf, the attractive and brilliant son of a rich and successful Catholic architect, and Antoni Leeuwenhoek, a self-taught draper-dared to challenge thousands of years of orthodox thinking about where life comes from. By meticulous experimentation, dissection, and observation with the newly invented microscope, they showed that like breeds like, that all animals come from an egg, that there is no such thing as spontaneous generation, and that there are millions of tiny, wriggling "eels" in semen. However, their ultimate inability to fully understand the evidence that was in front of them led to a fatal mistake. As a result, the final leap in describing the process of reproduction-which would ultimately give birth to the science of genetics-took nearly two centuries for humanity to achieve. Including previously untranslated documents, Generation interweaves the personal stories of these scientists against a backdrop of the Dutch "Golden Age." It is a riveting account of the audacious men who swept away old certainties and provided the foundation for much of our current understanding of the living world.
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Everyone has heard of the story of DNA as the story of Watson and Crick and Rosalind Franklin, but knowing the structure of DNA was only a part of a greater struggle to understand life's secrets. Life's Greatest Secret is the story of the discovery and cracking of the genetic code, the thing that ultimately enables a spiraling molecule to give rise to the life that exists all around us. This great scientific breakthrough has had farreaching consequences for how we understand ourselves and our place in the natural world, and for how we might take control of our (and life's) future.

Life's Greatest Secret mixes remarkable insights, theoretical dead-ends, and ingenious experiments with the swift pace of a thriller. From New York to Paris, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Cambridge, England, and London to Moscow, the greatest discovery of twentieth-century biology was truly a global feat. Biologist and historian of science Matthew Cobb gives the full and rich account of the cooperation and competition between the eccentric characters-mathematicians, physicists, information theorists, and biologists-who contributed to this revolutionary new science. And, while every new discovery was a leap forward for science, Cobb shows how every new answer inevitably led to new questions that were at least as difficult to answer: just ask anyone who had hoped that the successful completion of the Human Genome Project was going to truly yield the book of life, or that a better understanding of epigenetics or "junk DNA" was going to be the final piece of the puzzle. But the setbacks and unexpected discoveries are what make the science exciting, and it is Matthew Cobb's telling that makes them worth reading. This is a riveting story of humans exploring what it is that makes us human and how the world works, and it is essential reading for anyone who'd like to explore those questions for themselves.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Bloomsbury Publishing USA
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Published on
Dec 8, 2008
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781608190010
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
Medical / Reproductive Medicine & Technology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Shane Crotty's biography of David Baltimore details the life and work of one of the most brilliant, powerful, and controversial scientists of our time. Although only in his early sixties, Baltimore has made major discoveries in molecular biology, established the prestigious Whitehead Institute at MIT, been president of Rockefeller University, won the Nobel Prize, and been vilified by detractors in one of the most scandalous and protracted investigations of scientific fraud ever. He is now president of Caltech and a leader in the search for an AIDS vaccine. Crotty not only tells the compelling story of this larger-than-life figure, he also treats the reader to a lucid account of the amazing revolution that has occurred in biology during the past forty years.

Basing his narrative on many personal interviews, Crotty recounts the milestones of Baltimore's career: completing his Ph.D. at Rockefeller University in eighteen months, participating in the anti—Vietnam War movement, winning a Nobel Prize at age thirty-seven for the codiscovery of reverse transcriptase, and co-organizing the recombinant DNA/genetic engineering moratorium. Along the way, readers learn what viruses are and what they do, what cancer is and how it happens, the complexities of the AIDS problem, how genetic engineering works, and why making a vaccine is a complicated process. And, as Crotty considers Baltimore's public life, he retells the famous scientific fraud saga and Baltimore's vindication after a decade of character assassination.

Crotty possesses the alchemical skill of converting technical scientific history into entertaining prose as he conveys Baltimore's huge ambitions, intensity, scientific genius, attitude toward science and politics, and Baltimore's own view about what happened in the "Baltimore Affair." Ahead of the Curve shows why with his complex personality, keen involvement in public issues, and wide-ranging interests David Baltimore has not only shaped the face of American science as we know it today, but has also become a presence in our culture.

Everyone has heard of the story of DNA as the story of Watson and Crick and Rosalind Franklin, but knowing the structure of DNA was only a part of a greater struggle to understand life's secrets. Life's Greatest Secret is the story of the discovery and cracking of the genetic code, the thing that ultimately enables a spiraling molecule to give rise to the life that exists all around us. This great scientific breakthrough has had farreaching consequences for how we understand ourselves and our place in the natural world, and for how we might take control of our (and life's) future.

Life's Greatest Secret mixes remarkable insights, theoretical dead-ends, and ingenious experiments with the swift pace of a thriller. From New York to Paris, Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Cambridge, England, and London to Moscow, the greatest discovery of twentieth-century biology was truly a global feat. Biologist and historian of science Matthew Cobb gives the full and rich account of the cooperation and competition between the eccentric characters-mathematicians, physicists, information theorists, and biologists-who contributed to this revolutionary new science. And, while every new discovery was a leap forward for science, Cobb shows how every new answer inevitably led to new questions that were at least as difficult to answer: just ask anyone who had hoped that the successful completion of the Human Genome Project was going to truly yield the book of life, or that a better understanding of epigenetics or "junk DNA" was going to be the final piece of the puzzle. But the setbacks and unexpected discoveries are what make the science exciting, and it is Matthew Cobb's telling that makes them worth reading. This is a riveting story of humans exploring what it is that makes us human and how the world works, and it is essential reading for anyone who'd like to explore those questions for themselves.
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