Vital Forces

The Discovery of the Molecular Basis of Life


  • Graeme Hunter, Stanford University, Department of Biological Sciences, Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.

Vital Forces tells the history of the 'biochemical revolution', a period of unprecedentedly rapid advance in human knowledge that profoundly affected our view of life and laid the foundation for modern medicine and biotechnology. The story is told in a clear, engaging, and absorbing manner. This delightful work relates the fascinating and staggering advances in concepts and theories over the last 200 years and introduces the major figures of the times.Vital Forces also describes the discovery of the molecular basis of life through the stories of the scientists involved, including such towering figures as Louis Pasteur, Gregor Mendel, Linus Pauling, and Francis Crick. Combining science and biography into a seamless chronological narrative, the author brings to life the successes and failures, collaborations and feuds, and errors and insights that produced the revolution in biology.
View full description


Molecular biologists, protein chemists, biochemists, chemists, and physicists.


Book information

  • Published: April 2000
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-361810-8


ter has managed to present a complex, multidimensional ensemble of discoveries in diverse biological specialties extending over two centuries as a coherent, linear, unidimensional story. As far as I know, no comparably intelligent and comprehensive account of the "Biochemical Revolution" is available."
—-Gunther S. Stent, Dept of Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley, in BIOESSAYS (September 2001)

"Well documented with many personal vignettes, this is an engaging and intelligent book. The author is to be commended for capturing the sense of intellectual development as well as the excitement of discovery."
—-Eugene A. Davidson, Georgetown University School of Medicine, in DOODY'S HEALTH SCIENCES BOOK REVIEW JOURNAL (2001)
"This [book] should be required reading for students in this area and can surely be of value to even the most experienced investigator. Well documented with many personal vignettes, this is an engaging and intelligent book."

Table of Contents

List of Plates.Preface.Acknowledgements.The Revolution in Chemistry Has Come to Pass.The Maze of Organic Chemistry.A Singular Inward Laboratory.The Catalytic Force.Building Stones of Protoplasm.The Chemical and Geometrical Phenomena of Heredity.The Megachemisry of the Future.The Giant Molecules of the Living Cell.The Chemical Basis of Genetics.The Heredity Code-script.The Ubiquitous Spiral.Our Thread of Ariadne.Nature is Blind and Reads Braille.References.Selected Readings in the History of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.Name Index.Subject Index.