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The Eighth Day of Creation: The Makers of the Revolution in Biology
(Commemorative Edition)

Subject Area(s):  Molecular BiologyGeneticsGeneral Interest TitlesHistory of Science

By Horace Freeland Judson

© 1996 • 720 pp., illus., index, appendix, notes
Paperback • $56.00 44.80
ISBN  978-087969478-4
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In this classic book, the distinguished science writer Horace Freeland Judson tells the story of the birth and early development of molecular biology in the US, the UK, and France. The fascinating story of the golden period from the revelation of the double helix of DNA to the cracking of the genetic code and first glimpses of gene regulation is told largely in the words of the main players, all of whom Judson interviewed extensively. The result is a book widely regarded as the best history of recent biological science yet published.

This commemorative edition, honoring the memory of the author who died in 2011, contains essays by his daughter Olivia Judson, Matthew Meselson, and Mark Ptashne and an obituary by Jason Pontin. It contains all the content added to previous editions, including essays on some of the principal historical figures involved, such as Rosalind Franklin, and a sketch of the further development of molecular biology in the era of recombinant DNA.


Foreword to the Commemorative Edition
Horace Freeland Judson Obituary
Growing Up with The Eighth Day: A Reminiscence
Preface to the Commemorative Edition
Horace Judson (1931-2011)
Preface to the expanded edition
Foreword to the expanded edition
Foreword to the first edition
Part I: DNA — Function and Structure: The elucidation of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, the genetic material
1. “He was a very remarkable fellow. Even more odd then, than later.”
2. “DNA, you know, is Midas’ gold. Everybody who touches it goes mad.”
3. “Then they ask you, �What is the significance of DNA for mankind, Dr. Watson?’”
“Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” by J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick. Nature, 171 (25 April 1953), pages 737-738
“Genetical Implications of the Structure of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,” by J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick. Nature, 171 (30 May 1953): 964-967
On the State of Molecular Biology Early in the 1970s
4. On T.H. Morgan’s deviation and the secret of life
Part II: RNA — The Functions of the Structure: The breaking of the genetic code, the discovery of the messenger
5. “The number of the beast”
6. “My mind was, that a dogma was an idea for which there was no reasonable evidence. You see?!”
7. “The gene was something in the minds of people as inaccessible as the material of the galaxies.”
8. “He wasn’t a member of the club.”
Part III: PROTEIN — Structure and Function: The solution of how protein molecules work.
9. “As always, I was driven on by wild expectations.”
10. “I have discovered the second secret of life.”
CONCLUSION, 1978: “Always the same impasse”
EPILOGUE: “We can put duck and orange DNA together�with a probability of one.”
AFTERWORD I: In Defense of Rosalind Franklin: The myth of the wronged heroine
AFTERWORD II: What Did Erwin Chargaff Contribute?
AFTERWORD III: Dawn of The Eighth Day


review:  "A historian has mused that the memory of man is too frail a thread on which to hang history; Judson's achievement, in drawing out the memories of so many participants in the epic of molecular biology and weaving them into a single robust skein, is magisterial. His work fittingly commemorates a golden age which already seems as remote as that of Darwin and Huxley."

review:  “This reissue of a pioneering history of molecular biology, for some years out of print, is essentially a reprint of the first edition of 1979. Horace Judson has corrected a few minor errors (remarkably few for such a fact-filled book), given a sharper emphasis to Frederick Sangers' work on protein sequencing to reflect his (Judson's) conviction of its central importance, and added some personal details to a biographical sketch of Rosalind Franklin. Finally, an epilogue touches very briefly on developments in the 1970s that were the foundations for the subsequent vast expansion of molecular biology…. This epilogue obviously is not meant to bring Judson's original story up to the present—that would take another large book—but only to point readers to topics that Judson leaves for other historians to explore.

The Eighth Day of Creation has aged well, like a good vintage, and its very good to have it available again.”

review:  "The revelations of modern biology make a remarkable human and scientific story, and it has never been told better than in Horace Freeland Judson's The Eighth Day of Creation…. What is especially fortunate is that he is a graceful writer with a keen sense of the human as well as the scientific drama…. I finished the book with a great sense of elation and a deepened sense of admiration for what the human family, at its best, can accomplish." (Review of the First Edition)
      —JEREMY BERNSTEIN, New York Times Book Review

review:  "In his massive, marvelous history of molecular biology… Judson introduces us to many fiendishly clever experiments, some fiercely competitive rivalries, and some of the greatest scientific minds ever to ponder the mysteries of biology…. He has talked with nearly everyone involved, and The Eighth Day of Creation is a unique oral history of a scientific revolution; to my knowledge there has been nothing else like it." (Review of the First Edition)
      —LEON GUSSOW, Chicago Tribune