Books  Animal & General Biology  Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 

In Search of Cell History: The Evolution of Life's Building Blocks

By: Franklin M Harold (Author)

304 pages, 23 b/w photos, 12 b/w illustrations

University of Chicago Press

Paperback | Oct 2014 | #215437 | ISBN-13: 9780226174280
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £27.99 $34/€31 approx
Hardback | Oct 2014 | #215438 | ISBN-13: 9780226174143
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £76.99 $94/€87 approx

About this book

The origin of cells remains one of the most fundamental problems in biology, one that over the past two decades has spawned a large body of research and debate. With In Search of Cell History, Franklin M. Harold offers a comprehensive, impartial take on that research and the controversies that keep the field in turmoil. Written in accessible language and complemented by a glossary for easy reference, In Search of Cell History investigates the full scope of cellular history.

Assuming only a basic knowledge of cell biology, Harold examines such pivotal subjects as the relationship between cells and genes; the central role of bioenergetics in the origin of life; the status of the universal tree of life with its three stems and viral outliers; and the controversies surrounding the Last Universal Common Ancestor. He also delves deeply into the evolution of cellular organization, the origin of complex cells, and the incorporation of symbiotic organelles, and considers the fossil evidence for the earliest life on earth. In Search of Cell History shows us just how far we have come in understanding cell evolution-and the evolution of life in general-and how far we still have to go.

"This book is a rare pleasure: a beautiful, rational, wise, and eloquent framing of life's greatest mysteries, what remains to be known, and how we might get there. It should be read by anyone who wonders, seriously, how we came to be. If it does not provide all the answers, that is because we honestly do not know."
- Nick Lane, University College London and author of Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

"When dealing with difficult questions such as the origin of life, one yearns for writing that is both sagacious and readable, two qualities that don't always go together. Fortunately, we can forego the need for making a choice. Harold's book provides an account that is both masterful in the pursuit of the very question and in the clarity with which he unravels relevant phenomena. I daresay that few more helpful guides to a complex terrain have come forth since Dante's Beatrice."
- Moselio Schaechter, Distinguished Professor, emeritus, Tufts University

"The origin of life is one of the great enigmas yet to yield to modern science. While there are other books that attempt to place their own spin on how life came about, In Search of Cell History stands alone in that it is written not by one of those advocating a particular viewpoint but instead by one who tries to remain a detached, albeit extremely well informed, observer of events. An excellent piece of scholarly work by a suitably unbiased and appropriately skeptical researcher."
- Mark A. Farmer, University of Georgia


Chapter 1: Cells, Genes, and Evolution
(On the Nature and Workings of Life)
Chapter 2: The Tree of Life
(Universal Phylogeny and Its Discontents)
Chapter 3: A World Mostly Made Up of Microbes
(Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya)
Chapter 4: The Deep Roots of Cellular Life
(The Common Ancestry of Living Things)
Chapter 5: The Perplexing Chronicles of Bioenergetics
(Making a Living, Now and in the Past)
Chapter 6: Life’s Devices
(On the Evolution of Prokaryotic Cells and Their Parts)
Chapter 7: Emergence of the Eukaryotes
(The Second Mystery in Cell Evolution)
Chapter 8: Symbionts into Organelles
(Mitochondria, Plastids, and Their Kin)
Chapter 9: Reading the Rocks
(What We Can Infer from Geology)
Chapter 10: Ultimate Riddle
(Origin of Cellular Life)
Chapter 11: The Crooked Paths of Cell Evolution
(Cell Evolution Is Special)
Chapter 12: Summing Up: Journey without Maps

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Franklin M. Harold is professor emeritus of biochemistry at Colorado State University and affiliate professor of microbiology at the University of Washington. He is the author of The Vital Force: A Study of Bioenergetics and The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life.

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