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Life is all around us, abundant and diverse, it is extraordinary. But what does it actually mean to be alive? Nobel prize-winner Paul Nurse has spent his career revealing how living cells work. In What is Life?, he takes up the challenge of defining life in a way that every reader can understand. It is a shared journey of discovery; step by step he illuminates five great ideas that underpin biology. He traces the roots of his own curiosity and knowledge to reveal how science works, both now and in the past. Using his personal experiences, in and out of the lab, he shares with us the challenges, the lucky breaks, and the thrilling eureka moments of discovery. To survive the challenges that face the human race today – from climate change, to pandemics, loss of biodiversity and food security – it is vital that we all understand what life is.
Sir Paul Nurse won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001, and has also been awarded the Albert Einstein World Award of Science and French Legion d'Honneur. He has acted as advisor to the Prime Minister on Science and Technology matters, and received over 60 honorary degrees and fellowships from international universities. He is currently the Director and Chief Executive of London's Francis Crick Institute, a centre dedicated to understanding the biology underlying health.
"A beautifully written exploration of perhaps the most important question in science."
– Brian Cox
"A nearly perfect guide to the wonder and complexity of existence."
– Bill Bryson
"Paul Nurse is about as distinguished a scientist as there could be. He is also a great communicator. This book explains, in a way that is both clear and elegant, how the processes of life unfold."
– Philip Pullman
"The writing is so spirited and knowledgeable – and the five sections so full of wondrous revelations – that I could not put it down."
– Siddhartha Mukherjee
"It's the biggest question in biology. And this book represents the best answer I've ever seen. Paul Nurse is a rare life-form – a Nobel-winning scientist and a brilliant communicator."
– Alice Roberts
"Paul Nurse provides a concise, lucid response to an age-old question. His writing is not just informed by long experience, but also wise, visionary and personal."
– Dava Sobel