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How We Live and Why We Die


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In How We Live and Why We Die: the secret lives of cells, distinguished biologist Lewis Wolpert explains how cells provide the answers to fundamental questions about our lives.

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Lewis Wolpert is a distinguished developmental biologist and an accomplished broadcaster. He is Emeritus Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College, London. A CBE and a Fellow of the Royal Society, he was chairman of the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science for four years. He is the author of, among others, The Unnatural Nature of Science, Malignant Sadness and Six Impossible Things before Breakfast.


Wolpert, professor emeritus of biology at University College London (Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast), conceives bodies as complex societies of cells, with each individual cell and cell type fulfilling a very specific role. As Wolpert explains, cells are incredibly complicated, representing evolution in action. Indeed, Wolpert asserts, "However clever one thinks cells are, they almost always turn out to exceed one's expectations." He provides basic biological information about cell structure, genetics and reproduction, and then discusses the roles cells play in disease, aging, death, reproduction, memory, emotion and much more. In focusing on the process of human development, he marvels at how a single cell, a fertilized egg, can grow into a complex organism. Along the way, Wolpert lightly touches on some hot-button topics like the ethics of stem cell research; when a developing fetus might be considered human; and the ethics of cloning. His range is so great that he has little time to delve beneath the surface of any of the subjects he raises, making this a cursory introduction for the novice in basic cell biology and its implications. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

'The secret lives of cells' shouldn't be kept a secret, and Wolpert makes a good start at breaking the silence. . . . Impressively up to date.--Helen Pickersgill

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