Synopses & Reviews
“The chase for the double-helical structure of DNA was an adventure story in the best sense. First, there was a pot of scientific gold to be found—possibly very soon. Second, among the explorers who raced to find it, there was much bravado, unexpected lapses of reason, and painful acceptances of the fates not going well. The early 1950s were not times to be cautious but rather to run fast whenever a path opened up—nuggets of gold might be lying exposed over the next hill. As one of the winners with a fortune much, much bigger than I ever dared hope for, I could not stop moving. There was more genetic loot to be located, and not joining in the further hunt would make me feel old.” —from the preface
Immediately following the revolutionary discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the world of molecular biology was caught up in a gold rush. The goal: to uncover the secrets of life the newly elucidated molecule promised to reveal. Genes, Girls, and Gamow is James Watson’s report on the amazing aftermath of the DNA breakthrough, picking up where his now-classic memoir The Double Helix leaves off.
Here are the collaborations and collisions of giants, not only Watson and Crick themselves, but also legions of others, including Linus Pauling (the greatest chemist of the day), Richard Feynman (the bongo-playing cynosure of Caltech), and especially George Gamow, the bearlike, whiskey-wielding Russian physicist, who had turned his formidable intellect to the field of genetics; with Gamow—an irrepressible prankster to boot—Watson would found the legendary RNA-Tie Club.
But Watson––at twenty-five already the winner of genetic research’s greatest jackpot––is obsessed with another goal as well: to find love, and a wife equal to his unexpected fame. As he and an international cast of roguish young colleagues do important research they also compare notes and share complaints on the scarcity of eligible mates. And amid the feverish search for the role of the still mysterious RNA molecule, Watson’s thoughts are seldom far from the supreme object of his affections, an enthralling Swarthmore coed named Christa, the daughter of the celebrated Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr.
Part scientific apprenticeship, part sentimental education, Genes, Girls, and Gamow is a penetrating revelation of how great science is accomplished. It is also a charmingly candid account of one young man’s full range of ambitions.
From the Hardcover edition.
"Watson is at it again....Part memoir, part love story, part homage to the brilliant physicist George Gamow, Genes, Girls, and Gamow is another tell-all tale in the tradition of The Double Helix." Kirkus, starred review
A priceless glimpse into the intellectual circle that nurtured [Watsons] revolutionary paradigm. The New York Times Book Review
A fun-filled saga that substitutes Mercedes roadsters and molecular biology for the fear and loathing of gonzo master Hunter S. Thompson. San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
There are scores of wonderful tidbits....To his credit, Watson never spares himself. The Washington Post Book World
Bring[s] to life the amazing brain trust...that included American chemist Linus Pauling, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman and Russian-born theoretical physicist George 'Geo' Gamow. Chicago Tribune
An essential coda to The Double Helix. The Boston Globe
In this candid and compelling memoir, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, relates the story of his personal and professional fixations in the years following his and Francis Crick's stunning discovery. Guileless and smart, this is a refreshingly human look at great science behind the scenes. 43 illustrations.
In the years following his and Francis Cricks towering discovery of DNA, James Watson was obsessed with finding two things: RNA and a wife. Genes, Girls, and Gamow is the marvelous chronicle of those pursuits. Watson effortlessly glides between his heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious debacles in the field of love and his heady inquiries in the field of science. He also reflects with touching candor on some of sciences other titans, from fellow Nobelists Linus Pauling and the incorrigible Richard Feynman to Russian physicist George Gamow, who loved whiskey, limericks, and card tricks as much as he did molecules and genes. What emerges is a refreshingly human portrait of a group of geniuses and a candid, often surprising account of how science is done.
In the years following his and Francis Crick's towering discovery of DNA, James Watson was obsessed with finding two things: RNA and a wife. Genes, Girls, and Gamow is the marvelous chronicle of those pursuits. Watson effortlessly glides between his heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious debacles in the field of love and his heady inquiries in the field of science. He also reflects with touching candor on some of science's other titans, from fellow Nobelists Linus Pauling and the incorrigible Richard Feynman to Russian physicist George Gamow, who loved whiskey, limericks, and card tricks as much as he did molecules and genes. What emerges is a refreshingly human portrait of a group of geniuses and a candid, often surprising account of how science is done.
About the Author
James D. Watson is president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, he has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and, with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1962.
From the Hardcover edition.