MATTHEW COBB is professor of zoology and associate dean at the University of Manchester. He has translated five books from French into English, and spent most of his adult life as a researcher in Paris, before returning to the UK in 2002. He has a long track-record of popular science writing and blogging (Times Literary Supplement, Daily Telegraph, Nature Reviews Genetics, Journal of Experimental Biology, z-letter.com, whyevolutionistrue.com); has given talks and lectures around the world to the general public as well as students, scientists and historians; and is scientific advisor to Brian Cox’s BBC TV series ‘Wonders of Life’ and the accompanying book.
LIFE'S GREATEST SECRET
The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code
The cracking of the genetic code in 1961 was one of the greatest discoveries in human history, with far-reaching consequences for our understanding of ourselves and of our place in the cosmos. It forms the most striking and profound proof of Darwin’s central hypothesis that all organisms are related; holds tremendous promise for radically improving human health and well-being and shows that organisms are more than just bags of chemicals – those chemicals contain information.
Everything that you think about genes, about why you look like your parents, about humanity’s place in the natural world, can be traced back to two decades of discovery in the 1940s and 1950s, when biologists were adopting the words and concepts of computing – codes, information, programs. They showed that genes were made of DNA and then realised that the DNA contains a code that instructs organisms how to grow and behave. Yet, amazingly, few people know about this discovery and the shift in our worldview that it brought about – or the names of most of those involved.
LIFE’S GREATEST SECRET is the first popular book to tell the story of the dramatic race to crack the genetic code. It is a story that contains remarkable insights, theoretical dead-ends and ingenious experiments; explores the competition between some of the twentieth-century’s most outstanding and eccentric minds including Erwin Schrödinger, George Gamow, Claude Shannon, Richard Feynman, François Jacob, Jacques Monod, Oswald Avery, Jim Watson and Francis Crick; and unusually spans all the main scientific disciplines – biology, physics, chemistry, computing and mathematics. It also spans the globe, from Cambridge to Paris to Moscow, passing through most of the main research labs in the United States before concluding with Nobel prizes for some of the scientists, but not for others. It is a story not only of how science is done but also of the future discoveries and potential implications and applications opened up by this monumental revelation – from 'junk DNA' and genetic determinism to gene therapy and designer babies.
Delivery: Spring 2014
Publication: Autumn 2014
Length: 120,000 words
All rights available excluding:
World English Language (Profile)
ELEVEN DAYS IN AUGUST
The Liberation of Paris in 1944
The story of a momentous point in 20th-century history – a history that still lives in the streets.
In August 1944, in a tiny Belgian village, 12-year-old Henri Baiverlin looked on in amazement as his father heard of the liberation of Paris: 'He just sat there, tears streaming down his face, saying over and over again "Paris is a beautiful city, a great city".' All over the world, reactions were the same. From Manchester to New York, from Quebec to London, bells were rung, people rejoiced, tears were shed and hope sprang anew. As the British government publication Cadran put it: 'All the war news fades when faced with the liberation of Paris. For the whole world, Paris is a symbol of civilization and of liberty: the first echo of victory could be heard in the bells of Notre Dame... By liberating themselves, the Parisians showed the world that the soul of a people is invincible, stronger than the most powerful war machine.'
The liberation of Paris was a momentous point in twentieth-century history, yet it is now largely forgotten outside France. ELEVEN DAYS IN AUGUST is a pulsating hour-by-hour reconstruction of these tumultuous events that shaped both the end of the Second World War and the whole future of France, told with the pace of a thriller. Full of the atmosphere and spirit of the French capital, it shows how, in eleven dramatic days, people lived, fought and died in the most beautiful city in the world. As well as describing the drama, it examines the conflicting national and international interests that played out in the bloody street fighting. The tense, heart-wrenching story is told from conflicting points of view, using eyewitness and diary accounts and unpublished archive material from ordinary Parisians, Resistance fighters, the Free French, the Allied High Command, Allied and French spies, the German High Command, rank-and-file German soldiers and French collaborators.
Each of these groups of people experienced these August days in very different ways, praying for different outcomes, fighting for different futures. Hundreds of civilians and soldiers died, some leaving their names on fading plaques on Parisian buildings, but most are now forgotten by history. This book brings their stories back to life, capturing the emotion, the excitement, and the terror of insurrection and fighting, and revealing the history that lives in the streets.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (UK)
Pub Date: 11 April 2013
Length: 544 pages
All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth
An exciting, tragic and perceptive account of one of the most striking events of the twentieth century – and how one of the most powerful modern myths came to be forged.
THE EGG AND SPERM RACE
For thousands of years we had no idea how living things were created – great thinkers like Aristotle and Hippocrates had attempted to explain what became know as the problem of ‘generation’, but none of them had the tools or the insight to solve the mystery. The result was a wealth of weird and wonderful ideals about the components necessary to create new life – blood, ‘vapours’, invisible particles in the air. It was widely accepted that animals could sometimes produce different species, for example; the notion that two sheep can only ever make another sheep is a surprisingly modern idea.
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