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Ordinary Geniuses: Max Delbruck, George Gamow, and the Origins of Genomics andBig Bang Cosmology

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  51 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
A biography of two maverick scientists whose intellectual wanderlust kick-started modern genomics and cosmology.

Max Delbruck and George Gamow, the so-called ordinary geniuses of Segre's third book, were not as famous or as decorated as some of their colleagues in midtwentieth-century physics, yet these two friends had a profound influence on how we now see the world, bo
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 18th 2011 by Viking
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Converse
One potential problem with group biographies, even with a group of two individuals, is that the members of the group may not have much to do with eachother. In this case, Max Delbruck and George Gamow were acquaintances and then friends from their 20s, so this problem does not arise. Delbruck, of German origin, and Gamow, of Russian origin, were both physicists who shifted their studies from pure physics to what we would call molecular biology for Delbruck and mostly astrophysics and cosmology f ...more
Jason
An inspired choice to do a paired biography of George Gamow and Max Max Delbrück. They were both born at the turn of the century, one in Russia and one in Germany, both started in quantum mechanics and then branched out -- Gamow to nuclear physics and cosmology and Delbrück much further afield to biology. And hovering over both of them from the beginning to nearly the end of the book is Niels Bohr and the "spirit of Copenhagen".

One of the things this book conveys most beautifully is how Gamow an
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Mag
Mar 31, 2012 Mag rated it really liked it
Interesting and well written portrayals of Delbruck and Gamov- only 'ordinary geniuses'- as Segre playfully calls them, yet far from ordinary scientists and human beings. Max Delbruck is best known for his work on macrophages (how bacteria become resistant to viruses through mutation) which paved the road for genetics and genetic code discovery, and for which he got the Nobel prize in Physiology and Medicine. Gamov is a flamboyant Russian physicist who is the father of the Big Bang theory. Both ...more
Jim Hammond
Dec 01, 2011 Jim Hammond rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an interesting and enjoyable book. The lives of Delbruck and Gamov were woven together and the two old friends lived remarkable lives. Gamov come across as involved in many of the breakthroughs in physics in the first half of the 20th century but his "flightiness" meant the concentration needed to get a Nobel Prize was missing. Delbruck did get a Nobel Prize, however, and after deciding that physics was not going to be a career for him, went on to excel in the early development of genom ...more
Mimi
Apr 03, 2012 Mimi rated it really liked it
A very readable and entertaining book about these two scientists, who both started as particle physicists and took divergent paths. There was time that I knew Gino Segre, a most charming fellow, and I'm glad he has become a charming writer. This is a book that non-scientists can read even though I got a bit lost in molecular biology, but that can't be helped when one is so ignorant of such things.
Jenny
Apr 14, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it
I grew up with George Gamow's popular science books so I was very interested in this look at his personal and scientific life. Pairing him with Max Delbruck provides an overview of the development of cosmology and molecular biology.
Marie
Oct 30, 2011 Marie rated it liked it
This definitely lost a star for the last three chapters. it was quite good up until then...Gamow and Delbruck didn't seem very ordinary to me! The end seemed to go away from following Max's and Geo's lives and got into some philosophical bits I didn't bargain for.
Mark Reynolds
Apr 01, 2015 Mark Reynolds rated it liked it
Fascinating stories of cosmology and DNA, and the interplay between Gamow and Delbrück. But Gino isn't as good a write as his father, Emilio, was, so the story lags at times. Not as good as 'The Double Helix" nor "My World Line" by Gamow, but still interesting. As always, I learned something.
Ino
May 23, 2015 Ino rated it it was amazing
one of the best books i have ever read. it gives insight on how science used to work. as someone who studied genomics but who works for cosmologists i am convinced that this book picked me rather than the other way round.
Art
Mar 02, 2012 Art rated it it was ok
I picked this up to read since I really enjoyed his "Matter of Degrees" book. I guess I am not into his bibliographic style however. I put this down after a chapter due to disinterest.
Vanessa
Jun 27, 2013 Vanessa rated it it was ok
More of a biography than I was expecting. Not what I was looking for, though probably my bad for overlooking it in the overview.
Darko Doko
Sep 30, 2013 Darko Doko rated it liked it
Much more of biographie than science left me dissapointed. But it did intrigued me for further reading on DNA.
Doug
Jul 01, 2012 Doug rated it liked it
Great example of the interesting stories behind science. The lives of the scientists reveal they are people who made things happen by dedication and perseverance while remaining normal people.
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Manuel Sánchez
I read this in 2012
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Omar El-Etr
Oct 31, 2015 Omar El-Etr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ordinary? I'd rather say not!
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