Max Perutz and the Secret of Life

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Max Perutz's story, wonderfully told by Georgina Ferry, brims with life. It has the zest of an adventure novel and is full of extraordinary characters. Max was demanding, passionate and driven but also humorous, compassionate and loving. Small in stature, he became a fearless mountain climber; drawing on his own experience as a refugee, he argued fearlessly for human rights; he could be ruthless but had a talent for friendship. An articulate and engaging advocate of science, he found new problems to engage his imagination until weeks before he died aged 88.
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Editorial Reviews

Gregory A. Petsko
Ferry succeeds in bringing [Perutz] sharply to life....[she] avoids the pop-psychology that permeates so many modern biographies, while offering insight into Perutz's temperament and behaviour.
The Quarterly Review of Biology
Ferry does a superb job of using the correspondence, archival sources, interviews, and other traditional tools of biography writing...Teachers of undergraduates will treasure [this book] for the rich coverage of the birth of molecular biology and the circumstances that made it possible.
Chemical & Engineering News evenhanded look at the achievements of one of the greats of 20th-century science.
Nature Medicine
A biographer, it seems to me, walks a fine line: he or she needs to be truthful, enthusiastic and selective without suppressing, inventing or distorting the individual whose life is under scrutiny. He or she must allow his or her readers to feel, as well as to understand, the passions, foibles and idiosyncrasies that made his or her subject a person while dealing with family members and intimates who might object to a biography on the grounds that it's nobody's business. On all counts, Ferry's beautifully written book meets and passes the test with flying colors...
In telling the story of this admirable man and exceptional scientist, Ferry has succeeded in making her subject live again for the reader.
Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
[A]n engaging read. Ferry freely steps back in time with almost every chapter to develop a particular theme. The result is an insightful look at Perutz's life and work and the role he played in what was arguably the most productive collaboration of scientists in twentieth-century molecular biology.
Crystallography Reviews
As a much larger-than-life character, [Perutz] left lasting imprints on many colleagues whom Ferry interviewed to round out her story. Despite the complexities of Max's personality and his eccentricities (most of which centred, curiously in view of his robust health, on his physical health and diet), she avoids any hint of psychobiography and presents a relatively straightforward account of this remarkable man, whose career played out against the momentous events of the twentieth century.
Ferry succeeds in bringing [Perutz] sharply to life....[she] avoids the pop-psychology that permeates so many modern biographies, while offering insight into Perutz's temperament and behaviour.
—Gregory A. Petsko, Brandeis University
Protein Science
Georgina Ferry has written a superb biography of one of the most influential and likable figures of modern science, Max Perutz of Cambridge University...In places the book reads like a novel, but its facts are always correct...Ferry does a magnificent job of expressing the doubts, difficulties, and uncertainty of Max Perutz's life...Unreservedly recommended!
Ferry continues to shine as a first-rate science writer with this new biography.
The New England Journal of Medicine
Biographies that are most apt to appeal to physicians offer a coherent and accurate account of the subject's contributions to medicine, along with insights into his or her character and personality. Georgina Ferry amply fulfills these criteria in her account of the life of Max Perutz, the Nobel laureate who worked out the structure of hemoglobin and the chemical basis of its physiological properties. Her lively narrative draws us into the world of high-powered science, with its triumphs, frustrations, and foibles.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation
In 2002, Georgina Ferry, author of an acclaimed biography of Nobel laureate Dorothy Hodgkin, was called to the bedside of the dying 88-year-old Max Perutz, a former friend and colleague of Hodgkin's.His request was simple — do for him what she had done for Hodgkin. The result is Max Perutz and the secret of life, a thoroughly engaging account of the birth of molecular biology as told through the life story of one of its most enigmatic founders...
[T]his is a wonderful book, effectively presenting a complex man in a complex time and reminding us that unusual career training pathways, scientific rigor, and collaborative transdisciplinary science are not new ideas of the 21st century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780879697853
  • Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
  • Publication date: 10/30/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations     vi
Preface and acknowledgements     ix
Scenes from a Vienna childhood     1
'It was Cambridge that made me'     26
'The most dangerous characters of all'     55
Home and homeland     76
Mountains and Mahomet     91
How haemoglobin was not solved     120
Annus mirabilis     143
In search of solutions     166
A structure for science - the LMB     195
The breathing molecule     213
Health and disease     231
Truth always wins     259
Select bibliography     289
Notes     291
Glossary     333
Index     337
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