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The Biochemical Approach to Life

Bonner, James (1964) The Biochemical Approach to Life. New Phytologist, 63 (2). p. 266. ISSN 0028-646X. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1964.tb07378.x.

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This book is refreshingly different from many which similarly attempt to survey the state of modern biology in that it allocates but eighteen of its 184 pages to the nucleic acids. The remainder deal with enzymes and enzymology and enzymatic pathways in some detail. It deals with the protein and enzymological aspect of life in a manner, and on a level, suitable for biologists without any considerable background in chemistry. We start out by learning what amino acids are, their structures, how they are linked together in peptide chains, and further into protein structure and methodology for the separation of proteins from one another. The organization of the cell into subcellular particles, the roles of these particles, particularly of mitochondria, are considered in some detail and a long and thoughtful discussion is presented of the fact that biologists so often complain that the grinding up of cells and tissues results in nothing but the production of artifacts. The author arrives at the conclusion, of course, that there are appropriate methods, such as spectroscopy, and what he refers to as isotopic espionage, which permit us to assure ourselves as to whether or not we do, in fact, deal in subcellular systems with such artifacts. Further discussion concerns the pathways of glycolysis and respiration, the chemistry of nutrition with particular attention to the vitamins, chemotherapy generally and energy transport. Into the last chapter is compressed all of nucleic acid biology, DNA as genetic material, the replication and transcription of DNA and protein synthesis. This reviewer does not agree with the balance of the materials in the book, particularly if it is to be used as the introduction suggests, for example, by pre-university students who wish to get some feeling for modern biology. The book is, however, well and delightfully written, clear and logical, full of interesting historical anecdotes and thoughtful digressions into such matters as the contest between mechanism and vitalism in biology. Not the least intriguing feature of this book is to be found in the chapter headings and sub-headings: 'Large and labile, handle with care, purifying proteins, passing the buck, respiratory change', 'Into the neck of the funnel, formation of acetyl coenzyme A', 'The convenience of a common currency ATP'. This book may be recommended as educational light reading for botanists who wish to know more about protein chemistry and intermediary metabolism, as well as for the pre-college student who wishes to take an exploratory dip into biochemical matters.

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Additional Information:© 1964 Wiley.
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20151210-085638738
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:62771
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:10 Dec 2015 20:30
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 23:06

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