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Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets

Biography / Memoir

By: Robert Olby

538 pages, illustrations

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

Hardback | Sep 2009 | #195518 | ISBN-13: 9780879697983
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £36.50 $45/€41 approx

About this book

This engrossing biography by one of molecular biology's foremost scholars reveals the remarkable evolution of Francis Crick's scientific career and the shaping of his personality. From unpromising beginnings, he became a vital contributor to a remarkably creative period in science. Olby chronicles Crick's life from his early studies in biophysics, to the discovery of the structure of DNA, to his later work in neuroscience and the nature of consciousness. This account is woven together with insights into his personal life gained through access to Crick's papers, family, and friends. Robert Olby's book is a richly detailed portrait of one of the great scientists of our time.

The heart of Olby's book is the long section on the code; it is carefully researched and written in a style that allows the science itself to drive the narrative, it is absorbing and captivating...The writing is pleasant and easy to follow, a nice mix of detail and reflection...[Olby] explains the ideas, the data and the changing viewpoints step by step.
- Current Biology

"Olby was the right person to write such a scientific biography, as all of the readers of his already famous book, 'The Path to the Double Helix' (1984. London: Macmillan) can attest. They will appreciate the same qualities in the present work: a wealth of information and scrupulous honesty."
- The Quarterly Review of Biology

"The readers of 'PSCF' will be especially interested in the way in which Crick's uncompromising scientific naturalism informed and guided his choice of scientific problems and his approach to their solution...

Olby has written an interesting and informative intellectual biography of Crick, one of the foremost scientists of the twentieth century. By means of the book, we see both the scientific genius and the personal foibles of Crick, the hunter of life's secrets."
- Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"Olby...was supremely qualified to undertake this project. He has long been recognized as a leading historian of genetics...(Crick and Olby) first met in Oxford in 1966, and it was out of this collaboration that the idea of a biography first emerged, but with Crick's stipulation that it would not appear until after his death...Olby...benefited from a trove of historical riches--including Crick's personal papers, correspondence, manuscripts, laboratory notebooks, and autobiographical writings...Olby's volume, produced by a venerable historical of science at the pinnacle of his career,...will surely be regarded as the definitive scientific biography of Crick...This biography, in short, is not only a fitting tribute to Crick, but also a shining addition to Olby's distinguished corpus."
- Journal of the History of Biology


Time Line

1. The Call to Stockholm
2. A Difficult Act to Follow
3. From the Provinces to the Big City
4. War Work for the Royal Navy
5. Biology at the Strangeways
6. Helical Molecules at the Cavendish Laboratory
7. The DNA Fiasco
8. Two Pitchmen in Search of A Helix
9. A Most Important Discovery?
10. Publishing the Model
11. Employed by the John Wayne of Crystallography
12. The Genetic Code
13. Preaching the Central Dogma
14. Crick as Experimentalist Attacking the Genetic Code
15. The Excitement of the Sixties
16. Speaking out on Controversial Subjects
17. Biological Complexity
18. Leaving the 'Old Country'
19. Taking the Plunge: Neuroscience
20. From the Searchlight to the Soul
21. Eighty-Eight Years

Sources and Notes
Illustrations Credits
Biographical Index

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Robert Olby, a prominent historian of science, is research professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the highly regarded "Origins of Mendelism" (1966, 1985) and "The Path to the Double Helix" (1974, 1994). He has published and lectured widely on 19th and 20th century topics in biology, genetics, and molecular biology. Olby is a member of the History of Science Society and the International Academy of the History of Science.

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