Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code
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Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  150 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Francis Crick—the quiet genius who led a revolution in biology by discovering, quite literally, the secret of life—will be bracketed with Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein as one of the greatest scientists of all time. In his fascinating biography of the scientific pioneer who uncovered the genetic code—the digital cipher at the heart of heredity that distinguishes living from...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Harper (first published June 13th 2006)
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Jason Mills
Jul 01, 2010 Jason Mills rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science nerds, people-watchers
This is a short biography, but also very concise. If one were to remove from it everything that was not directly relevant to giving a picture of Crick and his achievements, the thing would be no more than a paragraph shorter. It's a fact-packed, straight-to-the-point account, and is all the more interesting for that.

We learn of Crick's war work on mines, his early forarys into protein structures, the fateful partnership with Watson, his 'ringmaster' role in the later unravelling of the genetic c...more
This is the second book in the "Eminent Lives" series that I've read and this one is as different from the first (Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare) as Bryson is different from Ridley. Bryson's forced to detail the life of the Bard from a scant historical record; Ridley has an abundance of material in his detailed account of "Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code", including Crick's family and collaborators.

I was surprised in reading the account to get a detailed description of each of t...more
The book was a light read, finished over a lazy weekend interspersed with binge eating and binge sleeping. However, it was sort of interesting, sort of funny, like reading about a hip, clever grandpa who was very smart and was a playboy at the same time. BTW, I had no idea that Crick got interested in Neuroscience at the end of his life. Nor that he also played a huge role in defining the central dogma, or even the RNA codon code breaking. He is such an inspiration as he is the kind of genius th...more
David P
One fast way of judging biographies is by size. Not always, but all too often, big fat ones contain far more tiresome detail than the reader ever wants, while short pithy ones give just highlights of personalities and events, and leave the reader thirsting for more.

By and large, brief ones provide a clearer impression, at least when as carefully composed as this one is. The physicist Wolfgang Pauli once wrote to a friend "please excuse me for sending a long letter, I didn't have the time to w...more
Colm Ryan
Enjoyable, concise bio of Francis Crick. Ridley doesn't hide his admiration for Crick, so it might not be the most objective. However, it's well written and describes an incredible scientist and some amazing science. One downside of the short format is that very little time is spent introducing the supporting cast - names are mentioned but often without context - which may be frustrating if you're not familiar with molecular biology.
Bill Swan
Francis Crick "invented life" -- the double helix the explains DNA and how all life is linked. The story told here is quite detailed, although a bit dry. What emerges is the portrait of a man with enthusiasm for living, for conversation, for ideas. Crick emerges as a man who depended on others to respond to and challenge his ideas, with the rare ability to at the right point synthesize those ideas is clearly written papers.

As someone with no background in biology, or the genetic code or even why...more
Mark Ferguson
This is the third Eminent Lives book I've read, following Christopher Hitchen's book on Jefferson and Paul Johnson's on George Washington. Once again, I was not disappointed. The book is fascinating, engaging, readable, and unromantic. Most of all, I was not expecting to be inspired, but I was. Crick didn't start making major discoveries until his thirties after a pretty mediocre young adulthood. If you have any interest at all in the discovery of DNA, or in the history of modern biology, this i...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
A good scientific biography, and a good companion to The Double Helix. The quality declines a little at the end. For a while it takes on a sort of "and then he did this, and then he did this, and then he did this" sort of approach. (The kind of thing one sees in the worst student writing: a total lack of transitions.) And it would have been nice if Ridley went into more detail concerning Crick's research on consciousness. Finally, there is no index, which is a bit of a drawback for me.
I really enjoyed this. I always knew he was an amazing guy, but was not so sure anymore after seeing some of what Watson wrote about him and hearing about him stealing from Rosalind Franklin. This book restored him in my eyes. He really was an amazing scientist, and they didn't "steal" anything. I also learned some things about him that were pretty surprising. Things I would have attributed to Watson, not him. All in all, this book made me really grateful for the few times I have been able to me...more
This was an intriguing read of the working life of an amazing scientist that unlocked the nature of life. The writing style was appealing, as it read like a series of essays about different aspects of Crick's work and life. The 200+ page read was sufficiently accessible for somebody without a background in science while getting into the story of Crick's work. Using this book as a basis for judgment, the Eminent Lives series shows promise as one to engage in for other subjects.
Tim Ward
Fascinating account of one of the greats, right up there with Alan Turing and (says Matt Ridley) Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein. Only 200 pages. Great introduction to what followed the Double Helix discovery: Crick pretty well founded molecular biology, plus massive contributions in other areas, from a standing start kin early middle age, after some effective work in the Admiralty sussing out enemy mine designs and inventing our deadly responses. Brilliant. Almost gave it 5.
Krásně napsaný životopis jednoho z nejvýznamějších vědců novodobé historie. Normálně životopisy nemusím, ale tenhle se opravdu nádherně četl a ukázal v Crickovi excentrického génia, který měl rád svou rodinu a přátele a byl neustále hnán touhou po poznání. Pracoval až do úplného konce. Byl to velký člověk.
Trey Nowell
Author did a very good job collecting info on the life of Francis Crick. Can't say it improved my views of what type of person Crick was, but it brought up many points I had not heard of behind the scenes of all the discoveries. End of the book picked up a bit and was a little more entertaining.
Good look at the molecular biology revolution, potentially lacking with regard to internal personal analysis of Crick. Noteworthy examination of Crick's transition from MoBio to Neuroscience.
kaitrana m
brilliantly written, enjoyed this book a great deal
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The Hon. Matthew White Ridley (born 7 February 1958, in Northumberland) is an English science writer, businessman and aristocrat. Ridley was educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a doctorate in zoology before commencing a career in journalism. Ridley worked as the science editor of The Economist from 1984 to 1987 and was then its Washington correspondent from 1987 to 1989...more
More about Matt Ridley...
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