Life’s Greatest Secret

This book is hard to describe. It’s partially a history of how we came to understand DNA as the unit of heredity, but also a discussion concerning how information theory has been applied to DNA, sometimes with success and sometimes without. It’s also a discussion of future uses of tools for manipulating the molecules of life. It’s also a discussion, especially toward the end, of philosophy of biology.

In addition to all this, it’s extremely detailed, both in its description of science and history. It’s not exactly light reading, and that’s a good thing. In particular, it offers an in-depth section on the famed race for the double helix. For better or worse, with the added detail, a lot of the drama is gone. In fact, according to Cobb, some of the more interesting moments from James Watson’s famous book didn’t actually happen.

Anyway, it’s not always an easy book, especially when it gets into the minutiae of specific experiments, but it’s pretty darn excellent. Recommended, especially if you’re into biology or the philosophy of biology.

Life’s Greatest Secret (Cobb)

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