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Sydney Brenner: A Biography

Subject Area(s):  General Interest TitlesHistory of Science

By Errol C. Friedberg, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

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© 2011 • 334 pp., illus. (59 b/w), index
Trim size: 6” x 9”
Hardcover • $40.00 • ISBN  978-0-879699-47-5


Also available as an Amazon Kindle book HERE.


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Over his long and inspiring career, the Nobel Laureate Sydney Brenner has made some of the most significant and game-changing discoveries in the field of molecular biology. But Brenner’s reach has extended well beyond his own research to inspire new generations of young scientists and to promote the development of science and biotechnology around the world. Based on his personal recollections, with contributions and correspondence from his close friends and colleagues, this book tells the lively story, not only of Brenner himself, but of what came to be known as the “golden age” of biology.About the author: Errol C. Friedberg, M.D., is the Senator Betty and Dr. Andy Andujar Distinguished Professor and Chair at the Department of Pathology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. A Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and recipient of the Rous Whipple Award from the American Society for Investigative Pathology, Friedberg also serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal DNA Repair. Friedberg is the author of Cancer Answers, Correcting the Blueprint of Life: An Historical Account of the Discovery of DNA Repair Mechanisms, The Writing Life of James D. Watson, and From Rags to Riches: The Phenomenal Rise of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. He is also senior author of the textbook DNA Repair & Mutagenesis, and has edited and annotated a series of interviews published as Sydney Brenner: My Life in Science.



review:  “The engaging, readable narrative is enhanced by numerous excerpts from Brenner’s professional and personal correspondence, from his published work, and from interviews of friends and colleagues. Friedberg provides descriptions of the nuts and bolts of research that should interest general readers and resonate with scientists.”

review:  “Friedberg...offers a wonderful overview of the life of one of the most interesting scientists living today.

The author finds the right tone for discussing Brenner’s scientific thoughts and discoveries: his descriptions of the science are basic enough that nonbiologists will understand the essence but not simplified too far.

Concise and entertaining, Friedberg’s Sydney Brenner is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of molecular biology.”

review:  “I can enthusiastically endorse Friedberg’s book and recommend it to anyone interested in modern biological sciences and the story of the men and women who pioneered this exciting field of research. Sydney Brenner is undoubtedly one of the most important pioneers in its development and, in his 80s, is still making significant contributions to it.”
      —Adler Museum Bulletin

review:  “Friedberg’s book is a well-written, engaging account that does justice to its subject — it is not overly flattering nor does it underplay Brenner’s many accomplishments. Both those who have read other Brenner biographies and those who don’t know anything about him would benefit from giving Friedberg’s biography a read.”
      —Genome Web

review:  “Errol Friedberg has written an absorbing account of Sydney Brenner, one of the founders of molecular biology...Friedberg’s book is thoroughly researched and based on numerous interviews. It contains revealing quotes for chemists..., an excellent collection of photographs. I strongly recommend this account of the life of a man of unusual talent, humour and intensity...”
      —Chemistry World

review:  “With meticulous attention to detail, Errol Friedberg takes us on a journey through the extraordinary life of Sydney Brenner....Friedberg laces his narrative with quotations and letters, family anecdotes and opinions from colleagues which humanize Brenner, highlighting his indisputable strengths and his minor foibles....This biography will inspire scientists...”

review:  “I found this book fascinating, both from the historical aspect of the window it gives on to the ‘golden age of biology’ through the description of Brenner’s scientific work, and also from the human aspect of Brenner the leader, advisor, mentor and family man. I heartily recommend it as a good read for anyone interested in exploring how we arrived at our current state of knowledge in molecular biology and the part played by this great man.”
      —The Bulletin of The Royal College of Pathologists

review:  “I read it more like a historic novel about molecular biology than a biography; and was totally hooked to the’s written so well that you forget about your own knowledge, and “live” the discoveries with Brenner, Watson, Crick, Nirenberg, and so on. Seriously they could make a nerdy TV show out of this. I learned so many things reading it, but also laughed a lot...”

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Prizes Awarded to Sydney Brenner
1. A Potent Intellect
2. In Love with Science
3. The Science Year Alternative
4. Becoming an Independent Researcher
5. Failing the Final Year of Medical School
6. Viewing the DNA Model
7. Confronting the Genetic Code
8. Returning to South Africa
9. Cambridge at Last
10. The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
11. Messenger RNA - The Concept
12. Messenger RNA - The Validation
13. A Triplet Genetic Code
14. Deciphering the Triplet Code
15. C. elegans
16. The Many Faces of the C. elegans Project
17. Progressing on Multiple Fronts
18. Getting Back to DNA
19. Gene Cloning and Genomics
20. Director of the LMB
21. Relinquishing the Directorship
22. Finding New Opening Games
23. Mounting a Human Genome Project
24. California Bound
25. Singapore
26. Mentoring Again
27. Enfant Terrible
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