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Paperback | $44.00 Short | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262660464| June 1980

A Century of DNA

A History of the Discovery of the Structure and Function of the Genetic Substance


Why did it take more than a century of research before scientists properly understood what DNA was and what it did within the cell? A Century of DNA aims to answer this question, tracing the history of DNA research across interrelated subjects, including embryology, biophysics, organic chemistry, histology, physiological chemistry, and genetics. The chapters follow a chronological sequence in the development of ideas on DNA, and incorporate biographical material on researchers involved in these discoveries. Comprehensible to the general scientific reader and to the specialist, this book is a unique look at the foundations of molecular biology.

About the Authors

Franklin H. Portugal served on the scientific staff of the National Institutes of Health and was a professor at the University of Maryland University College. He is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the M.S. in Biotechnology Program at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His 1979 book, A Century of DNA (MIT Press), coauthored with Jack S. Cohen, remains in print today. He worked in Nirenberg’s lab from 1967 to 1968.

Erik Swyngedouw is Professor of Geography at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Social Power and the Urbanization of Water: Flows of Power.

John Sharp is Associate Professor of Games and Learning at Parsons the New School for Design and a member of the game design collective Local No. 12.

Deborah J. Nightingale, Professor of the Practice of Aeronautics and Engineering Systems and Director of the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center at MIT, is coauthor of Lean Enterprise Value: Insights from MIT’s Lean Aerospace Initiative and Beyond the Lean Revolution: Achieving Successful and Sustainable Enterprise Transformation.

Donna H. Rhodes is Senior Lecturer in Engineering Systems at MIT and Principal Research Scientist in the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center. She is Director of MIT’s Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative and Sociotechnical Systems Research Initiative.

M. Chirimuuta is Assistant Professor in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Alexander Klose is a researcher and curator in the program department of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.


"...a considerable contribution to the history of the subject."—Nature

"A major work in the history of science."—The Wall Street Journal

"As detailed and accurate a factual reconstruction as we are likely to be given for a generation"—Human Nature

"The general objective of this laudable."—Science