Synopses & Reviews
Fifty years ago Francis Crick and James D. Watson proposed the double helix model for the DNA molecule. They believed they had, as Crick put it, discovered the and#147;secret of life,and#8221; and many agreed. But in the intervening years, science has marchedand#151;sometimes leapedand#151;forward, and now the question and#147;What is life?and#8221; must be posed once again.
In this accessible and fascinating book, Michel Morange draws on recent advances in molecular genetics, evolutionary biology, astrobiology, and other disciplines to find todayand#8217;s answers to the question of life. He begins by discussing the various answers that have been formulated in the past, setting contemporary definitions of life within a rich philosophical and scientific tradition that reaches back to ancient Greece. Then, with impeccable logic and a wealth of appropriate detail, Morange proceeds to lay out the fundamental characteristics that define life. The road to an understanding of life remains incompletely charted, he concludes, but the nature of its final destination is no longer an enigma.
"In this seamless translation, author and French biology professor Morange (The Misunderstood Gene) addresses the question 'What is life?' by looking at answers from Aristotle to the atomic age and 'bringing out the various points of agreement and contradiction hidden among them.' After addressing definitions of life proposed by others, Morange outlines 'three essential characteristics' of life: reproductive ability, complex molecular structures and the metabolic replication of those structures. From there, Morange discusses a range of current inquiries, among them astrobiology research, genome studies and adaptation in extreme conditions. An informative and engaging tour of life, and our understanding of it, as a process 'perpetually being transformed,' this title should appeal to the more serious of armchair philosopher-scientists." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Michel Morange is professor of biology at the Ecole Normale Supand#233;rieure in Paris, where he directs the Centre Cavailland#232;s for the History and Philosophy of Science. He is the author of The Misunderstood Gene and A History of Molecular Biology, and has published many articles in scientific journals. Matthew Cobb is senior lecturer in animal behavior at the University of Manchester. Malcolm DeBevoise has translated some thirty works from French in all branches of scholarship.