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Extended Audio Sample DNA: The Secret of Life Audiobook, by James D. Watson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (588 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James D. Watson Narrator: Bill Meisle Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2003 ISBN: 9780739302637
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Fifty years ago, James D. Watson, then just twentyfour, helped launch the greatest ongoing scientific quest of our time. Now, with unique authority and sweeping vision, he gives us the first full account of the genetic revolution—from Mendel’s garden to the double helix to the sequencing of the human genome and beyond.
Watson’s lively, panoramic narrative begins with the fanciful speculations of the ancients as to why “like begets like” before skipping ahead to 1866, when an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel first deduced the basic laws of inheritance. But genetics as we recognize it today—with its capacity, both thrilling and sobering, to manipulate the very essence of living things—came into being only with the rise of molecular investigations culminating in the breakthrough discovery of the structure of DNA, for which Watson shared a Nobel prize in 1962. In the DNA molecule’s graceful curves was the key to a whole new science.

Having shown that the secret of life is chemical, modern genetics has set mankind off on a journey unimaginable just a few decades ago. Watson provides the general reader with clear explanations of molecular processes and emerging technologies. He shows us how DNA continues to alter our understanding of human origins, and of our identities as groups and as individuals. And with the insight of one who has remained close to every advance in research since the double helix, he reveals how genetics has unleashed a wealth of possibilities to alter the human condition—from genetically modified foods to genetically modified babies—and transformed itself from a domain of pure research into one of big business as well. It is a sometimes topsy-turvy world full of great minds and great egos, driven by ambitions to improve the human condition as well as to improve investment portfolios, a world vividly captured in these pages.

Facing a future of choices and social and ethical implications of which we dare not remain uninformed, we could have no better guide than James Watson, who leads us with the same bravura storytelling that made The Double Helix one of the most successful books on science ever published. Infused with a scientist’s awe at nature’s marvels and a humanist’s profound sympathies, DNA is destined to become the classic telling of the defining scientific saga of our age. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • A remarkable alignment of the planets is occurring in 2003: the 50th anniversary of the double helix and the completion of the sequence of the human genome. As a defining figure in both landmark events, no other human being on the planet is positioned to write as authoritatively about all this as Jim Watson. In DNA: The Secret of Life he does so with characteristic clarity, style, and wit. If you really want to know what happened in the most important half-century of biology since the world began, read this! Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute
  • Unlocking the secret of life was the greatest accomplishment of science in the 20th century and laid the foundation for medicine in the 21st century. Over the past 50 years, Jim Watson has been at the center of this revolution. No one has a broader perspective. And, no one can tell its story more compellingly. Watson brings alive the grand ideas, human foibles, and social challenges in a way will both engage the general public and inspire a new generation of young scientists. Eric Lander, founder and director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research
  • This is the story of DNA and therefore the story of life, history, sex (lots of sex!), money, drugs, and still-to-be-revealed secrets. DNA is quite a molecule–she's been around a long time and played a lot of roles. At last, she has a truly worthy biographer. Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine
  • Only James Watson combines the verve and authority to take us on such an exciting, fast-paced journey into the continuing storm of DNA science. This landmark summary asks where the new biology will take us, and gives arresting vignettes of major participants in the DNA revolution. The key experiments and fascinating unknowns are laid out as plain as day. Victor McElheny, author of Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution
  • James Watson has been an eyewitness to each revolution in molecular biology, from the double helix to the genome. He sees further and clearer than anybody else in the field. Give this fabulously good book to anybody who wants to understand what all the excitement is about. Matt Ridley, author of Genome
  • “Only James Watson could have written this book: no one else knows DNA from so many perspectives—discoverer, scientific leader, author of one of the great scientific memoirs of all time—and no one else writes in such an utterly riveting and independent manner. DNA is a singularly lucid life story of a molecule and its determining role in human nature, society, medicine, and our future as a species. It is an important book and a delight to read. Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and author of An Unquiet Mind.

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrea | 2/17/2014

    " Since I'm in love with DNA, I was thrilled to read a book by the scientist credited with discovering it and it's unique properties. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 2/13/2014

    " The man that characterized the shape of DNA with Crick delivers a very informative book about the genetic revolution with very good clarity that does not require a biology degree. He discusses early genetics, including genetic engineering along with an overview how molecular processes are affected by DNA. He continues this discussion to the present age where genetic mapping is extremely common and gene therapy will likely be the newest tool to fight human illness. Along the way he discusses tangent DNA technologies that have affected all humans including DNA forensic use in court and genetic engineering of crops. However, his most interesting contribution may be his emphasis on the social and ethical implications that affect scientists and lawmakers dealing with genetics. While in general he seems to favor fewer regulations with the belief that science and knowledge should be free and largely left alone by lawmakers. He seems to back somewhat liberal positions such as the choice of a free mother to abort a baby if early tests reveal major genetic flaws. He highly supports uninhibited stem cell research, a controversial subject now and in the future. Overall his ethical insights, especially as a famous scientist offer a refreshing point of view on a very powerful and hotly contested field, especially with his underlying belief that the promotion of science is itself the greater good. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kevin | 1/26/2014

    " Decent. Skipped over some details that I thought were important and focused a little too much on the people involved and their stories. Good to hear it from the perspective of the guy that discovered the double helix though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather | 1/3/2014

    " I gave this book 4 stars because it really is an excellent history of genetics from one of the co-discovers of DNA, James Watson. I have used this book in some papers and in my Genetic Engineering talks because Watson is the quintessential reductionist. He truly believes that everything boils down to our chemistry; his language does not hide just how sacred this view it to him. The reductionist logic will always break down for many reasons, but as an apologist this book was very helpful in understanding how the history of genetic engineering reveals this awe for the chemical components. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Stacey | 12/26/2013

    " Fascinating review of the dramatic impact of DNA research on society commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix written by Dr. Watson himself and a collaborator. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Benjamin | 12/19/2013

    " James Watson shares some anecdotes and teaches history of DNA discoveries "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joe Paulk | 12/6/2013

    " Not only is this superbly written, but it is fairly exhaustive. The look at the politics behind scientific ventures is intriguing and Watson spares no punches towards Crick, although he does it rather tactfully. The questions raised in the end are also thought provoking and extremely pertinent. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 11/15/2013

    " i read this a while ago, maybe back in high school? i'm not really into overly scientific books and whatnot, but this one was really interesting. watson makes it a fun, enjoyable read even if you aren't into academic types of books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ryan | 9/30/2013

    " James has captured the nature of why he chose genetics as his core work. He accounts the details as well as providing some context as the key investigators toward the world of biotechnology as we know it now. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina | 9/26/2013

    " It was fun to read, and it was a good review for me since I hadn't had many hard science classes for a few years when I read it. The end becomes kind of preachy, but the rest of it totally revived my love for genetics. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nathan Williams | 8/12/2013

    " Remarkable book. Filled with all kinds of information. After reading this book, you get a fuller insight of how magnificent DNA is and the importance of it. It also gives an understanding of how scientists and clinical researches test DNA for medical advancements. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steph Seay | 4/30/2013

    " a good book tot basic info but a lot of info in the book seemed untrue i would take what this book says with a grain of salt "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 4/29/2013

    " this book will change our mind sets.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie Mcsweeney | 11/14/2012

    " Read this as a genetics undergrad and it was one of those books that confirmed my love of the subject, along with The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry. A fascinating area! But poor Rosalind Franklin where is her Nobel Prize??? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nick | 10/13/2012

    " Read a few chapters. Informative, if a little didactic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steve Schardein | 7/14/2012

    " Great book by one of the original scientists behind the major breakthroughs. Biology is one of the most fascinating subjects to me, and to hear it spelled out in terms of basic chemical relationships (which this book does) is extraordinarily interesting in my opinion. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris | 5/30/2012

    " Great book. Part autobiography, part science. Explains why DNA is part of our understanding of evolution. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terah | 4/18/2012

    " This is a very instructive book and was clearly written for such a complex subject. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hamood Alsudais | 6/4/2011

    " It is a great book because the author tried to make things understandable and interesting. History, stories, scientific explanation, the opponents and the proponents views all together came up with this wonderful book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrew | 5/23/2011

    " an odd book with multiple perspectives telling the store of how DNA was discovered. It is actually quite interesting of a read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeffrey | 5/21/2011

    " I love this book. This is my third reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eric | 4/10/2011

    " A great book about Scientific discovery. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brittany | 4/8/2011

    " Considering the scientific nature, it was exciting to read about the discoveries of Watson and Crick "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Matthew | 2/23/2011

    " Revealing, personal and approachable. Despite the tell-all tone, I found it somewhat hard to get a fix on the author himself; he seemed to downplay his own role, intelligence and personality. Nevertheless, it was a good read (heh). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 2/15/2011

    " Good, I got really excited at parts that convince me I'm a geek. Well written, for scientists and the layman. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gus | 2/13/2011

    " A very short, very entertaining read about the discovery of the structure of DNA, written from the subjective point of view of one of the main characters (and Nobel winners). I'm glad I read this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christopher | 2/7/2011

    " An intriguing account of science races and academic politics. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jessica | 1/27/2011

    " I love this book - the drama of the discovery of DNA, with a biased point of view, but oh so fascinating. As a biologist, I loved reading and watching the pieces come together. Dr. Watson paints a vivid picture of the characters and events in this story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 1/12/2011

    " A thoroughly enjoyable tale that shows what a lot of science is really like. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim | 1/5/2011

    " This book was kind of "DNA for Dummies" for me. Having not gotten the science gene, I was generally wary of anything in that field. But this book made the discovery of DNA strands fascinating. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Evan | 12/10/2010

    " interesting to read, but Watson is kind of a condescending jerk, which takes away from it a bit "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alex | 12/6/2010

    " Hard to understand without good knowledge of chemistry/biology. But fascinating nevertheless to follow the struggle to discover DNA "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 11/20/2010

    " Highly opinionated memoir of the discovery of the structure of DNA. "

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