DNA Pioneers and Their Legacy


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Ulf Lagerkvist

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In this entertaining account of the origins of modern molecular biology, the lives of pioneering scientists in the field of nucleic acid research, and the discovery of DNA, Ulf Lagerkvist speaks not only to scientists but to all students and general readers with an interest in science. The author, whose career in the nucleic acid field began in the late 1940s, recreates historical episodes from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and introduces for a modern audience the scientists whose discoveries revolutionized the field of biology. Knowledge of these pioneers as professionals and as human beings, Lagerkvist believes, may help us see modern problems in a new light and appreciate the greatness of the researchers who contributed to the foundations of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Among these scientific pioneers was nineteenth-century biochemist Friedrich Miescher, discoverer of nuclein, the material now known as DNA. The book also explores early research into general problems of the chemistry of biological materials. Lagerkvist vividly describes the research of such influential scientists as Albrecht Kossel, another early leading figure; Emil Fischer, who received the Nobel Prize in 1902 for his work on carbohydrates and purines and was regarded as the foremost chemist of his time; P. A. Levene, known for his discoveries concerning the structure of nucleotides and the way these nucleic acid building blocks are linked to one another; and Oswald T. Avery, often considered the grandfather of molecular genetics.

Ulf Lagerkvist is retired professor of the Department of Medical Biochemistry at the University of Göteborg, Sweden.

A selection of the Library of Science

"Lagerkvist's book is an informed and urbane sketch of some of the pioneers and present-day practitioners of genetics and molecular biology. His aim of placing these scientists, as individuals with human faces in the context of the history of ideas, is achieved with admirable success."—Sidney Altman, Sterling Professor of Biology, Yale University

"The story of DNA, from its humble beginnings in pus to its role as the principal determinant of all living organisms on our planet, emerges through the genius of individuals who revealed its secrets. Lagerkvist has captured admirably the drama, intensity, elation, heartbreak and humanity of intellect in action."—Paul Berg, Cahill Professor in Cancer Research and Biochemistry and Director of the Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University

"An engaging look at the deeper history of the science of heredity."—William Summers, M.D., Yale University School of Medicine

"The story of DNA is one of the great sagas of the last century and one of the great keys to the next, and this brief appreciation of the pioneers in the field should help introduce them to a wider public."—Choice

"Lagerkvist writes his intellectual history mainly through the psychological-biographic portraits he draws of his 'pioneers.' The advantage of Lagerkvist's book is that it is highly accessible to any reader."—Bruno J. Strasser, BioScience

"An engaging look at the deeper history of the science of heredity."—William Summers, M.D., Yale University School of Medicine

ISBN: 9780300071849
Publication Date: June 16, 1998
168 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
33 b/w illus.