BizStore » Books » Nature's Robots: A History of Proteins
Item Dimensions: Array
Label: Oxford University Press
Manufacturer: Oxford University Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 320
Publication Date: 2001-11-08
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Studio: Oxford University Press
Proteins are amazing molecules. They spark the chemical reactions that form the basis for life, transmit signals in the body, identify and kill foreign invaders, form the engines that make us move, record visual images. For every task in a living organism, there is a protein designed to carry it out.
Nature's Robots is an authoritative history of protein science, from the earliest research in the nineteenth century to the most recent findings today. Tanford and Reynolds, who themselves made major contributions to the golden age of protein science, have written a remarkably vivid account of this history. The authors begin with the research of Berzelius and Mulder into "albumins," the early name for proteins, and the range all the way up to the findings of James Watson and Francis Crick. It is a fascinating story, involving heroes from the past, working mostly alone or in small groups, usually with little support from formal research grants. They capture the growing excitement among scientists as the mysteries of protein structure and function--the core of all the mysteries of life--are revealed little by little. And they include vivid portraits of scientists at work--two researchers, stranded by fog in a Moscow airport, strike up a conversation that leads to a major discovery; a chemist working in a small lab, with little funding, on a problem no one else would tackle, proves that enzymes are proteins--and wins the Nobel Prize.
Written in clear and accessible prose, Nature's Robots will appeal to anyone interested in the peaks and valleys of scientific research.
Proteins make it possible for us to digest food, to battle disease, to breathe, to move; they underlie life itself. Only in the last 200 years have scientists come to understand how these proteins, or "foremost things," work. How they did so is the subject of this welcome history of protein science.
It doesn't diminish our pleasure in such things to know that the aroma coming from a cooked ham is generated by the reaction of maltose and glutamic acid, while the heavenly scent of chocolate comes from the interaction of phenylalaine and sucrose. Tanford and Reynolds aren't exactly given to rhapsodizing, but they write appreciatively nonetheless of advances such as Franz Hofmeister's identification of the "peptide bond" that joins amino acids in proteins, John Kendrew's work in understanding the three-dimensional structure of myoglobin, and the efforts of modern researchers who, joining protein science to cell biology and genetics, are now working to solve the structures of more than 10,000 protein families.
General readers and students with an interest in the life sciences will find this well-written history to be of much use--and the best of its kind. --Gregory McNamee