Olive Francis's Reviews > The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher

The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas
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's review
Feb 06, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 06 to April 05, 2011

Thomas seems to be intrigued by the fact that humans are social creatures. All the aspects of what defines a social creature- communication, language, community, work- intrigues him. He often goes on tangents explaining the intricate innards of a cell. Pieces like ribosomes and mitochondria inside a cell work together and formulate tissue, which makes organs, which turn into organ systems, and so on until a body and mind is formed. Of the parts of a cell, Thomas finds the mitochondria to be the most fascinating. Being so deeply mesmerized by its connection- or disconnection for that matter- to the human body. Apparently mitochondria, unlike other cells in our body, can survive separate from us. As organisms evolved into complex systems of life, mitochondria developed not a dependent relationship, but a symbiotic relationship to living organisms. Mitochondria are the same no matter what living organism one hones in on; a catfish, a dinosaur, and a forest fern all are made of mitochondria identical to the next. Thomas feels a personal connection to all the living things of the planet knowing they all share the same symbiotic relationship with them; all living creatures can be united by them. After reading about mitochondria and their role in the entire universe, I became equally as dazzled by them as Thomas, if not more because I know much less about them.

Being united by their cellular composition, living creatures may also come together because of their social desires. Thomas compares humans to insects nearly every chapter. Cockroaches, honey bees, flies, and Thomas's favorite, ants, Thomas notes are not far in terms of social connections from human beings. Usually I would be disgusted by being compared to an insect, but Thomas points out our similarities in a very objective manner that seems almost honorable to be compared to. Social connection, no matter what creature, is actually amazing.

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Reading Progress

02/10/2011 "My book has yet to be sent to the library, so I have yet to begin reading it. Last year I took biology and found it be be incredibly interesting, hence why I chose a book about cell life and biology to read about. Perhaps I'll pursue a career in and after college regarding biology and biotechnology. So, as if almost to test the water to see what I may potentially be getting into, I chose to read The Lives of a Cell."
100.0% "After finishing this book, I've found a new appreciation for the way its chapters are written. There are only a few pages per chapter, allowing me to feel like I've accomplished more reading in one night than I actually had. Every night I was encouraged to squeeze in that one last chapter before going to bed."
100.0% "Each chapter, each exceeding no more than four pages, presents a new topic regarding human relationships to nature. Though Thomas does go off on some biology tangents explaining the functions of various parts of a cell, all of which relate to society as a whole. Like cells that make tissues, and organs... and eventually and body and mind of a human."

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