Other Sellers on Amazon
The Code Breaker Hardcover – 9 March 2021
Save Extra with 2 offers
Enhance your purchase
Frequently bought together
"Walter Isaacson is our Renaissance biographer, a writer of unusual range and depth who has plumbed lives of genius to illuminate fundamental truths about human nature. From Leonardo to Steve Jobs, from Benjamin Franklin to Albert Einstein, Isaacson has given us an unparalleled canon of work that chronicles how we have come to live the way we do. Now, in a magnificent, compelling, and wholly original book, he turns his attention to the next frontier: that of gene editing and the role science may play in reshaping the nature of life itself. This is an urgent, sober, accessible, and altogether brilliant achievement." —Jon Meacham
"When a great biographer combines his own fascination with science and a superb narrative style, the result is magic. This important and powerful work, written in the tradition of The Double Helix, allows us not only to follow the story of a brilliant and inspired scientist as she engages in a fierce competitive race, but to experience for ourselves the wonders of nature and the joys of discovery." —Doris Kearns Goodwin
“He’s done it again. The Code Breaker is another Walter Isaacson must-read. This time he has a heroine who will be for the ages; a worldwide cast of remarkable, fiercely competitive scientists; and a string of discoveries that will change our lives far more than the iPhone did. The tale is gripping. The implications mind-blowing.” – Atul Gawande
"An extraordinary book that delves into one of the most path-breaking biological technologies of our times and the creators who helped birth it. This brilliant book is absolutely necessary reading for our era." — Siddhartha Mukherjee
“Now more than ever we should appreciate the beauty of nature and the importance of scientific research; This book and Jennifer Doudna’s career show how thrilling it can be to understand how life works.” —Sue Desmond-Hellmann
"A magisterial biography of the co-discoverer of what has been called the greatest advance in biology since the discovery of DNA... A diligent historian and researcher, Isaacson lucidly explains CRISPR and refuses to pass it off as a far-fetched magic show. Some scientific concepts (nuclear fission, evolution) are easy to grasp but not CRISPR. Using charts, analogies, and repeated warnings for readers to pay attention, the author describes a massively complicated operation in which humans can program heredity...A vital book about the next big thing in science—and yet another top-notch biography from Isaacson." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In Isaacson's splendid saga of how big science really operates, curiosity and creativity, discovery and innovation, obsession and strong personalities, competitiveness and collaboration, and the beauty of nature all stand out." — Booklist (starred review)
"Isaacson depicts science at its most exhilarating in this lively biography of Jennifer Doudna, the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in medicine for her work on the CRISPR system of gene editing...The result is a gripping account of a great scientific advancement and of the dedicated scientists who realized it." — Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"Isaacson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of best sellers Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs, offers a startling, insightful look at this lifesaving, hugely significant scientific advancement and the brilliant Doudna, who wrestles with the serious moral questions that accompany her creation. Should this technology be offered to parents to tailor-make their babies into athletes or Einsteins? Who gets altered and saved and why?” — AARP
"The journalist who told the life stories of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs is back with a timely biography of Jennifer Doudna, PhD, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry. It’s a fast-paced account of her life as a pathbreaking scientist on CRISPR — and how gene editing could alter all life as we know it." — Medium
"This challenging, fascinating story examines Doudna's background and excavates the moral quandaries she grapples with as her creation opens up more and more avenues for scientific advancement." — Elle
"It is a gripping tale, showing how our new ability to hack evolution will soon start throwing us curveballs." — New Scientist
About the Author
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster (9 March 2021); Simon & Schuster Publishers India Pvt Ltd.
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 560 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1398502316
- ISBN-13 : 978-1398502314
- Item Weight : 900 g
- Dimensions : 15.3 x 3.8 x 23.4 cm
- Country of Origin : United Kingdom
- Generic Name : General Book
- Best Sellers Rank: #738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Reviews with images
Top reviews from India
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There is a key difference between this book and Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. I did not learn anything new from the latter as I was aware of most of the key events in the life of Jobs and in the history of Apple; however the insights that he provided into Jobs’ personality and the behind-the-scenes happenings at Apple made it an extremely interesting read. The Code Breaker, on the other hand, was extremely informative given my limited knowledge of gene editing; however, in its quest for being informative, the book ends up being somewhat tedious.
Doudna has led an extremely laudable professional life. However, her personal life has been largely commonplace, and while Isaacson tries his hardest to create a sense of excitement around it, he fails to do so. He focuses all his efforts on this front in the third part of the book — Gene Editing — where he chronicles the intense rivalry between Feng Zhang and Doudna, tracing their race to get credit, important prizes and patents. But this attempt falls short.
The most interesting part of the book for me was the section where Isaacson explores the moral or ethical issues around gene-editing. This is best exemplified by the question, “would it be wrong to do so or would it be wrong not to do so”. Isaacson discusses where boundary lines should be drawn — somatic editing versus germline editing (the latter is hereditary), the use for treatment of diseases versus for enhancement of human characteristics, the types of diseases that should be edited out, disadvantages that are disabling versus those that are simply so because of societal constructs (such as homosexuality) and finally whether the individual or the community should control this. From this part onwards, the book is less about Doudna and more about the science.
The book ends on an optimistic note, while discussing the Covid-19 disease and the race to find a vaccine, on how reprogrammable RNA vaccines could pave a way for finding faster cures to diseases and pandemics in the future.
Pros: Helps understand the science of biogenetics, interesting debate on the ethical aspects
Cons: Drags in parts
By Shoaib Mohammed on 14 May 2021
Top reviews from other countries
Walter Isaacson includes mini bios for many of the scientists included in Doudna’s story and there are quite a few. At first, I was frustrated by all the incremental information - get on with it, already! As his worked progressed, peeling the onion of her life’s story, I see the value of understanding the motivation for these scientists; not all are created equally. Many of the details of Doudna’s life are glossed over so don’t expect a Hollywood style biography. Details are given as they relate to people and events of science, her personal life is not.
Doudna is an interesting woman due to the fact that she is really quite “normal” in her brilliance for bio chemistry. I was struck by her genuine affection for her co-workers that’s evidenced in the included photos as well as some of the lengths she went to helping her competition. She states that money is not her motivation but “publish or perish” is ingrained in most academics and even that seems to be under developed in Jennifer. THAT will become an issue...
Parts of this formidable volume read like a thriller. There’s intrigue, court battles, and friends with misunderstandings. Part Seven consists of 5 chapters that discuss the issues of ethics as relates to DNA and changing the structure of life, ordering the structure of life. Who has the right? Who controls the rights? Is it right at all? These are supremely serious questions that should be considered be every adult.
It would be helpful to have some science background when reading this book, but it’s not impossible without it. There are excellent footnotes to assist and if you get the Kindle version, they are interactive, which makes look ups SO much easier! Otherwise, this is definitely a worthy read. It’s very well written, challenging and up to the minute with information on the science of biochemistry and gene editing. The ethical issues should have people talking for a good, long time. The medical manifestations should have people living a healthy, long time. God Bless Us, Everyone📚
This book is 481 pages long but is an easy and exhilarating book written by an experienced hand. Issacson, however, openly declares that he tells the story primarily from Jennifer Doudna’s point of view. He has done his best to be an impartial reporter and recorder of the story, yet it is obvious, and perhaps unavoidable, that some characters are cast in poorer light against Doudna, who Issacson shines the light of sainthood upon.
Before the race to discover how CRISPR might be used on human genes, they first have to discover CRISPR – the acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. As it appears, scientific discoveries are made a step at a time, almost always by different scientists. The Japanese Yoshizumi Ishino was the first to discover the repeat structures in a bacteria. It was Francisco Mojica who realised what these do, and it was he who came up with the name CRSPR. Then came Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.
In brief, they discovered how bacteria defend themselves against their old enemy, the virus. The bacteria cut up some of the DNA from the virus and then implant them on themselves so that they can identify the invading virus when they attacked again.
The story continues to the crucial race to discover how exactly the bacteria cut up the virus DNA. That was main work of Doudna and Charpentier. They discovered the process through the RNA and how the TRACR RNA helps identity then guide the bacteria’s protein enzyme to the target. All that is exciting, yet the book’s attraction lies in many other aspects.
We see how fame and money (the scientists get millions of dollars from prizes) change or perhaps reveal the dark side of even the seemingly nicest of people. We see how quiet, unassuming, dedicated scientists turn to ego-sensitive, prize-grabbing people. We may also question the way the patent system works. Reading between the lines of this book (remember, Isaacsson is a little beholden to Doudna for the backbone of his story) we might get a slightly different take.
Ethical issues involve not only the big question as to whether we should allow genetic editing in humans, but also the subsidiary question, of when we are ready for it. Thus enters the Chinese scientist He Jiankui who used CRISPR to edit the genes of a pair of twins so that they are genetically resistant to the HIV virus. Yet He Jiankui created an uproar in the West, and the worldwide outrage led to him being found guilty of conducting experiments without official approval and was sentenced to three years jail. He rushed ahead before the all-clear signal.
But now, with the COVID pandemic, scientists are open to using gene editing as an answer. Furthermore, even Doudna is working on other diseases that can be cured. They include the sickle cell disease, Alzheimer’s, and also cancer. There are also problems that the present system has not yet addressed – gene-editing as a medical magic wand seems destined to be available only for the rich.
We also learn from this book that the US military, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was so very much interested in gene technology in the last six years or so that it invested US$65m into research involving CRISPR and genetic engineering specifically for military purposes. Doudna is in one of the seven teams involved with DARPA funded research.
The moral and ethical issues are enough to keep one thinking long after the last page is turned. One big question is how different are the modern-day eugenics different from the eugenics of the early 20th century?
However, once finding the correct location for editing, all Cas9 can do by itself is cutting the DNA double helix at this location. Nevertheless, cutting alone usually disrupts the target gene by a mechanism called nonhomologous end joining. Human does possess another DNA repair pathway called HDR, which can fix the gene if a DNA template is nearby. Unfortunately, the latter one only works in the dividing cells and its editing efficiency is often miserably low, especially when editing in vivo.
For all the above reasons, CRISPR-Cas9 needs to pair with other editing modules to complete the other half of the job, the actual editing, to fully unlock its potential. This is where the base editor or prime editor comes into the scene. Invented by Harvard Chemist David Liu and his postdocs, both base editor and prime editor can offer much higher "editing" efficiency than HDR. And both editors are widely adopted and hailed by the gene-editing labs across the globe since their debut in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
As such, it is a major disappointment for this book that Walter Isaacson failed to dedicate at least one complete chapter to highlight base/prime editor and have an interview with David Liu to discuss his transformational work.