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The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms,…

The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life (2001)

by Franklin M. Harold

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"A momentous change had come about when what scientists did came to be taken for granted, even by those who understood little or nothing of it. The crucial change in the making of the modern mind was the widespread acceptance of the idea that the world is essentially rational and explicable, though very wonderful and complicated."

John M. Roberts
The Triumph of the West, 1986
For Ruth: Microbiologists, artist, traveler, hill walker, friend, colleague, wife, mother; and the best thing that ever happened to me.
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This book is not about biology, biochemistry or any other finished and finite discipline, but about life. (Preface)
In the sprint of 1938, Adolf Hitler launched his conquest of Europe by annexing neighboring Austria. (Chapter 1)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195163389, Paperback)

"What is life?" asked physicist Edwin Schrödinger in an influential essay by that title published half a century ago. In this book, Franklin Harold ventures no definitive answers about what he calls "the supreme marvel of the universe." Instead, with wit and learning, he surveys the advances in scientific understanding about the nature of life since Schrödinger's time.

Harold focuses closely on microorganisms, which, he observes, do not often figure in popular books of biology, perhaps because most general readers associate them only with disease and not with their many beneficial contributions to the world's workings. In fact, he suggests, the answer to Schrödinger's question is likely to be found at the microscopic level. Current evolutionary models derived from the study of ribosomal RNA from hundreds of species of plants and animals now point to the development of life from some cenancestor in a setting billions of years old, one in which "microorganisms rather than dinosaurs fill the horizon." The identity of that ancestor is not yet known, he writes; it may have resembled a bacterium, or it may have been a loosely organized assemblage of protocells "engaged in the promiscuous exchange of genetic information."

No matter what it looked like, Harold notes in this instructive survey of modern biological theory, life probably originated in an apparently inhospitable environment, as studies of deep-ocean thermal vents and the lithosphere now point to, rather than in the oceanic "chemical stew" of old. It's a fascinating story, and Harold tells it ably. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:45 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"What is life? Fifty years after physicist Erwin Schrodinger posed this question in his celebrated and inspiring book, the answer remains elusive. In The Way of the Cell, one of the world's most respected microbiologists draws on his wide knowledge of contemporary science to provide fresh insight into this intriguing and all-important question."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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