Thinking about Science: Max Delbruck and the Origins of Molecular Biology

Ernst Peter Fischer, Author, Carol S. Lipson, With
Ernst Peter Fischer, Author, Carol S. Lipson, With W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (334p) ISBN 978-0-393-02508-8
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Hearing a lecture by physicist Niels Bohr in 1932 changed Delbruck's life, turning him from the study of X-rays to biology. Fascinated by the interaction of matter and living systems, he abandoned physics and went on to help create the fledgling science of molecular biology in the 1930s and '40s, winning a Nobel Prize in 1969. In this workmanlike, affectionate biography, the feisty, demanding Caltech professor at times seems a jouster chasing after windmills, ever seeking an elusive unity behind living systems. Yet, as we follow Delbruck (1906-1981) in his exploration of how light can reactivate seemingly dead viruses, or as he unravels the mechanisms of bacterial variation, one gains immense respect for this polymath who set one branch of virology after another on the right track. Fischer, who studied with Delbruck, and science writer Lipson make his investigations accessible to the lay reader. Illustrated. (August)
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