254 pages, 30 b/w illus
Macromolecules are, in a sense, life itself. DNA is one of these giant molecules, as are the proteins that govern the workings of the human body. Yet macromolecules also comprise some of the most artificial constructs, including plastics, polymers, and nanodevices limited only by the scientific imagination. In this splendid book, Walter Gratzer explores the history, structure, and properties of the many-varied macromolecules. Despite their centrality to life, they were long believed to be impossible. Gratzer tells the story of their discovery, explaining the chemistry behind these extraordinary structures in easily accessible terms. He describes how scientists have learned to manipulate them, from designer proteins to thermoplastics, from cosmetics to smart polymers. Now this remarkable field is a meeting ground of the natural and artificial, as seen in biomimetics, gene-splicing, and plans for DNA-based computers.
1. Before the dawn; 2. The basics: a little chemistry; 3. Proteins: from skin and bone to enzymes; 4. Storage: of food and information; 5. The protean element: carbon in new guises; 6. The plastic world; 7. The quiddity of polymers: shapes, sizes, and their effects; 8. The new age: giant molecules for the 21st century; 9. Present and future: where will it end?; 10. The many faces of DNA; Further Reading; Bibliography
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