Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets

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9780879697983: Francis Crick: Hunter of Life's Secrets

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.

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About the Author:

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.

Review:

Crick could have wished for no more suitable biographer than science historian Robert Olby, who knew him for almost 40 years and who has had full access to family members and documents...Olby gives a vivid account both of Crick's work over a period of 60 years, and of his life, and there is much in this book that will prove to be unfamiliar, perhaps especially to geneticists...For exploring and documenting all these and other aspects of Crick's life in a readable, sensitive and not uncritical manner, readers from all backgrounds have much to thank Robert Olby for. His story will help to confirm Francis Crick as one of the key people responsible for the transformation of our understanding of life and its processes. --Human Genetics

Olby brilliantly follows Crick through [his] creative years. By highlighting the scientist's interactions with a growing group of others devoted to developing the field, he captures the excitement, false dawns and triumphs that followed the Watson-Crick model of DNA. Olby is fair to all of the early participants in DNA work: Linus Pauling, Maurice Wilkins and, above all, Rosalind Franklin and her collaborators at King's College London...Issues of priority generate passion, but Olby's account can be recommended for its dispassionate analysis and mastery of archival sources. --Nature

All throughout, Olby intersperses detailed accounts of the science with Crick s persona. Neither perspective is at the expense of the other and together they enable and elevate the book, the two wound together in the mutual relationship of a helix. The personal details are as interesting as the science and, if anyone was wondering yes, a genius like Crick was not uncomplicated...I suppose reviews of a biography could be divided into ones by those who knew the subject versus those who did not. I knew Francis Crick quite well and think Olby has gotten him right on all scores. Crick was guarded on first encounter but once he thought a person was OK he let all loose. He knew and trusted Robert Olby and the result has given us something truly memorable. Thoru Pederson --Nucleus

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

All throughout, Olby intersperses detailed accounts of the science with Crick s persona. Neither perspective is at the expense of the other and together they enable and elevate the book, the two wound together in the mutual relationship of a helix. The personal details are as interesting as the science and, if anyone was wondering yes, a genius like Crick was not uncomplicated...I suppose reviews of a biography could be divided into ones by those who knew the subject versus those who did not. I knew Francis Crick quite well and think Olby has gotten him right on all scores. Crick was guarded on first encounter but once he thought a person was OK he let all loose. He knew and trusted Robert Olby and the result has given us something truly memorable. Thoru Pederson --Nucleus

Olby's biography could be considered the product of an open conversation with Odile Speed Crick - Crick's wife - and others that extended for almost forty years. What is more, Crick himself read and critically commented on the first fourteen of the twenty-one chapters of the book, with only one condition imposed on Olby, for it to be published after his lifetime....In the preface of Olby's book, he states that he hopes for his work to make an additional contribution. Needless to say, he largely achieves this and in so doing, proves wrong those who, like myself, thought that enough was known about Francis Crick's life. Olby's book is written in a lucid style with an impressive display of sources and a smart and engaging narrative. Definitely a pleasurable read. --Medical History

All throughout, Olby intersperses detailed accounts of the science with Crick s persona. Neither perspective is at the expense of the other and together they enable and elevate the book, the two wound together in the mutual relationship of a helix. The personal details are as interesting as the science and, if anyone was wondering yes, a genius like Crick was not uncomplicated...I suppose reviews of a biography could be divided into ones by those who knew the subject versus those who did not. I knew Francis Crick quite well and think Olby has gotten him right on all scores. Crick was guarded on first encounter but once he thought a person was OK he let all loose. He knew and trusted Robert Olby and the result has given us something truly memorable. Thoru Pederson --Nucleus

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