This book is of potential interest for aficionados of the history of science, particularly relating to molecular biology, and selected chapters might be of value to scientists in training, or early in their career. Some of the chapters provide insights into the processes of scientific discovery, scientific competition and culture, and how new data and theories are rarely as simple and clearcut at the time of discovery as they are in retrospect...the best insights are provided by scientists who were struggling with research problems as trainees or early in their careers. Several of these accounts are true gems, clearly presenting the problems in the context of the state of knowledge, technology, and competing hypotheses of earlier times (now mostly discarded and forgotten). These stories describe thought processes, false leads, competition and feuds between research groups and disciplines, personalities, and courses of investigation leading to discoveries.
The essays are often accompanied by photographs of the young participants at the time of their major contributions to this narrative, diagrams used at the time of publication, laboratory notebook entries with graphs and data, and an occasional cartoon. The styles vary from near review article to very introspective studies of proteins, competition, and the genesis of ideas in science. Most are enjoyable, and reading all 40 will give scientists a rich picture of what happened during the last 50 years of the 20th century, when molecular biology startled geneticists, biochemists, microbiologists, evolutionists, and physicians with surprising new insights or techniques pouring out of the journal pages in those very exciting decades. Many of the contributors are from Europe, and they are selfdeclared biochemists. It is good to see the different approaches and assumptions of these sometimes colliding and often cooperating groups who reshaped biology by digging into the cells, its organelles, and their chemical functions.
The Quarterly Review of Biology
The main focus of this compilation is the experimental work that made a substantial contribution towards establishing the veracity of the General Idea or Central Dogma: the focal areas of DNA replication, the early days of protein synthesis, deciphering the genetic code, discovering tRNA and solving its structure, the surprising journey towards the identification of mRNA, and finally, a return to protein synthesis at the level of the ribosome. These personal recollections are full of fascinating insights into the technologies of the day, often underlining the need to operate in response mode when you are unsure of what you are doing and even more unsure of the outcome. They also clearly underline the value of communication and collaboration with your colleagues and of course, the role of serendipity.