The particular case that Horace Freeland Judson chronicles is the molecular biology revolution that happened between the 1940s and the early 1970s and echoes into present day biological research. In a short phrase, Judson captures the two research tacks of a scientist: the scout, who is much better at opening a new area rather than digging down in the details of an established field (the homesteader). Far from being a book thats in the weeds, TEDoC contains two chapters that capture the conceptual questions that underlie biology. In Chapter 4, TH Morgans Deviation and the Mystery of Life, Sydney Brenner, in just 4 pages, completely and clearly describes the major questions in biology and potential pitfalls in the current (January 1971) practice of it.
The history of molecular biology as we know today began probably with Delbruck and Pauling, but a continuous line of intellectual descent can be traced from the physicists Ratherford, Bragg, Bohr, Szilard and Schroedinger on the one hand, and from geneticists Haldane, Beadle, Lederberg, Hershey and Luria on the other.
If you enjoy reading about the history of science (especially 20th century science) then in my opinion this book is absolutely a "must read." If you are trained as a molecular biologist, geneticist, or biochemist, then I think you will find reading this book well worth your while.
First published in 1979, I first read EDoC when I was in high school (and lent my original copy to my step daughter, Rae).
For example, it took over a week to complete one particular page as I had to go and read up on the Bohr effect, haemoglobin's structural changes in response to oxygen stimulation, to grasp the significance of the advances in understanding of the protein. The book is divided into three main sections: the discovery of DNA, of RNA and the discovery of the structure of proteins.
The DNA story's wonderful, the Monod history's un-put-downable, the portrait of Pauling's indelible. He's got an epilogue on the Rosalind Franklin story, which has unfortunately been allowed to hijack the double-helix story -- not terribly surprising, since it's good drama, but not very good science history.
It almost feels like instead of simply writing the history he wanted to be part of it but couldn't so now he drops all the names of the people he met while writing the book.
The low resolution map of the deoxy form, though, showed a faint loop of density extending from the carboxyl end of the beta chain..." Nowhere near a sufficient foundation was laid for this.
Horace Freeland Judson is a historian of molecular biology and the author of several books, including The Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology, and The Great Betrayal: Fraud In Science, an examination of the deliberate manipulation of scientific data. Judson graduated from the University of Chicago in 1948, and worked for seven years for Time Magazine as a European correspondent in London and Paris. The film's producer Pennebaker does not believe the tirade was planned, but notes that Dylan backed off, not wanting to come across as being too cruel.