February 1, 1995

The Strands of a Life: The Science of DNA and the Art of Education

Author Affiliations

Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, Inc Waltham, Mass


by Robert L. Sinsheimer, 318 pp, $30, ISBN 0-520-08248-6, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994.

JAMA. 1995;273(5):423-424. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520290077036

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Some years ago the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation hit upon the idea that the autobiographies of prominent scientists might constitute a valuable resource in helping to make the world of science accessible to the general public. To date nearly 20 such books have been published in this series, including the memoirs of such giants as Freeman Dyson, Peter Medawar, Lewis Thomas, and Francis Crick. Robert Sinsheimer's The Strands of a Life is a welcome addition.

Working for two decades (1957-1977) in the biology department at Cal Tech, much of that time as chairman, Sinsheimer was an architect of the field of molecular biology, the science that has provided the foundation for the Human Genome Project and which over the next quarter century will reconstitute our knowledge of pathophysiology and revolutionize preventive medicine. One of his most fundamental discoveries came in 1959, when he demonstrated that ϕX174, a small bacteriophage that

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