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The DNA Doctor: Candid Conversations with James D Watson

Biography / Memoir

By: Istvan Hargittai

220 pages, b/w photos

World Scientific Publishing

Paperback | Oct 2007 | #173656 | ISBN-13: 9789812707970
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NHBS Price: £34.99 $46/€40 approx

About this book

Three in-depth conversations with the Nobel laureate co-discoverer of the double helix and the first director of the Human Genome Project cover a wide range of topics, including progress in science; the scientist's role in modern life; women in science; scientific ethics; terrorism; religion; multiculturalism; and how genetics may improve human lives. Reflections by further illustrious contributors to the scientific revolution and the author's commentaries provide a glimpse into the thinking of scientists who largely determine the progress of humankind in our time.

It is a fascinating book, particularly for those of us who either know him, know large elements of the DNA story, or simply want to hear all the opinions and asides of a great discovery of science. It also gives the flavor of a particular period in the history of science, when biology became even more fascinating than physics.It is a very good read, and I congratulate Hargittai on a fine work, certainly also useful and important for future generations of historians (or indeed philosophers) of science and scientific discovery.Aaron KlugNobel LaureateFormer President of the Royal Society (London)"An unusual perspective on one of the intellectual giants of our time."Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate, PresidentMemorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York"This book is interesting because of what it tells us about molecular biology, the most important scientific advance of the second half of the twentieth century, and about Jim Watson, major architect of that scientific revolution and an endlessly intriguing iconoclast and scientific commentator ... The Hungarian scientist Istvan Hargittai reports three intimate conversations with Jim Watson, interleaving these exchanges with his own comments. He expands points raised, summarizes the historical context, and reports further conversations with other scientists who also participated in the major advances of molecular biology. What emerges is another perspective on this great chapter of science, and on the people who brought it about. But, best of all, we learn something more about Jim himself. We glimpse his constantly probing and worrying mind, the way he picks things over, moving backwards and forwards in a conversation which is more with himself than with his interviewer. We see a mind at work that is restless, wrestling with each new problem and always coming up with something insightful and thought provoking. It is not that Jim is always right, because he is not. However, even when he is wrong and, very occasionally, a touch hare-brained, it is always in an interesting way. But the one characteristic which comes through repeatedly in these informative conversations is Jim's unbounded intellectual courage. He is completely fearless, saying exactly what he thinks. I doubt if he has ever made a single public utterance that has been influenced by political correctness or the current mores of the day. Read these conversations to see this bold, courageous and ever necessary thinker at work."Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate, PresidentThe Rockefeller University, New York


General audience, including all intellectuals, molecular biologists, geneticists, biochemists, graduate and undergraduate students, teachers, medical doctors, and people involved in biotechnology.

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Istvan Hargittai is Professor of Chemistry and Head of the George A Olah PhD School at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and member of the Academia Europaea (London). He holds a PhD from Eotvos University of Budapest; a DSc from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; and honorary doctorates from Moscow State University, the University of North Carolina, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. His books include The Martians of Science, The Road to Stockholm, the Candid Science book series of interviews with famous scientists, Our Lives (which contains a considerable amount of autobiographical material), Symmetry Through the Eyes of a Chemist, and Symmetry: A Unifying Concept. He and his scientist wife live in Budapest. Their grown children live in the United States.

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