October 31, 1977

The Life Science: Current Ideas of Biology

Author Affiliations



by P. B. Medawar and J. S. Medawar, 196 pp, $8.95, New York, Harper & Row, 1977.

JAMA. 1977;238(18):1960-1961. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280190062042

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According to the jacket, Sir Peter and Lady Medawar "present in layman's terms a new map of the ideas and concepts that underlie biological thinking today." This usage of the word layman seriously underestimates the scope of the book's audience. Furthermore, each noun in the title is unusually meaningful. This is a book about life and science, and biology must be interpreted broadly to fit with life and science. Throughout the work, the Medawars evince their mastery of philosophic as well as scientific concepts. The Life Science, entirely captivating, is not a book for spot reading, but premedical students, medical students, and practicing physicians will find special delight in many individual chapters.

The chapters that relate broadly to evolution cover with extraordinary clarity and completeness many of life's mysteries only recently solved. Especially interesting are its discussions of inheritance, nucleic acids, genetic code, and evolution by natural selection.

The brief