David Kaiser, editor, Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. vii + 426 pp. $45.
Although countless authors have explored the history of science education, the education of scientists has attracted far less attention. The 14 essays in this well-edited collection focus on the under-appreciated role of pedagogy in shaping scientists’ identities. At heart, many historians of science are interested in the fundamental question of how a student becomes a scientist. The contributors’ focus on engineering and the physical sciences does not limit the volume’s impact; instead, key experiences emerge from case studies that share much in common. Chemical Heritage’s readers will be particularly interested in the chapters on the Beilstein Handbuch, probe microscopy, French chemistry textbooks, and the introduction of molecular orbital theory, but the entire volume deserves a look.-Audra J. Wolfe
Matt Ridley, Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. New York: HarperCollins, 2006. x + 213 pp. $19.95.
It is no small task to explain a life, let alone the secret of life, in a few hundred pages, but this slim book does more than that; it may have gotten to the soul of both. Ridley skillfully traces the separate paths of the history of modern biology and Francis Crick’s journey to greatness until the two threads met in 1953 with Crick’s and Watson’s discovery of DNA’s structure. Ridley brilliantly captures Crick’s thinking style: his love of debate; his insistence on written, not remembered, evidence; and his ability to visualize in three dimensions. The book also discusses the controversial and misunderstood aspects of Crick’s findings, including allegations of stolen data and conflicts with Rosalind Franklin and Richard Gregory. Rid ley’s story is succinct and flowing but is so full of names and places that it is occasionally difficult to keep track of the narrative; photographs and an index would have helped. Still, there is much to be learned about DNA, scientific pursuit, the creative soul of a man, and the secret of life. -Matthew Soniak
Merck litmus paper, 1934
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