Blondes in Venetian Paintings, the Nine-Banded Armadillo, and Other Essays in Bi

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Konrad Bloch

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In this fascinating book, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Konrad Bloch muses on various aspects of biochemistry, explaining the chemical basis for many biological phenomena. Drawing on his own experiences as well as on colorful anecdotes about the work of other scientists, Bloch presents a new way of looking at the world and a revealing glimpse into the ways that scientific discoveries are made and problems are solved.

Bloch begins with a charming essay on why—despite the fact that peroxide had not yet been invented—there are so many blonde women in Italian Renaissance paintings. He then considers, among other topics, some important biochemical processes that were discovered because of contamination; the importance of trial and error in biochemical research; the explanation of lactose intolerance in adults and practices for avoiding it; why the choice of animal models is important for medical research (and how the author injected himself with extracts of the tubercle bacilli to study the pathology of tuberculosis); and why the exotic nine-banded armadillo has unique potential for use in many areas of medical and biological investigations. He concludes with thoughts on biochemistry's origin and future.

Konrad Bloch, Higgins Professor of Biochemistry Emeritus at Harvard University, shared the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology in 1964 with Feodor Lynen. He was recipient of the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1988 and has received many other awards and honorary degrees.

"This is a delightful, well-written, readable collection of essays by Konrad Bloch...[E]ach [essay] has an engaging title and amplifying preamble. . . . Bloch shows that science and scientific prose need not be dull and, in fact, can be fun. Insights and comments are sprinkled liberally throughout."—Nathaniel I. Berlin, JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association

"Bloch provides a splendid chapter on the evolutionary perfection of cholesterol [in]...a tremendously interesting and stimulating book."—Henry Mautner, Tufts University School of Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine

"The catchy title should attract readers who enjoy erudition, lateral thinking, and detective stories. A fascinating read."—Alex Paton, British Medical Journal

"An instructive and entertaining book that blends facts, speculations and autobiography. It should appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of biochemistry."—Leslie E. Orgel, Chemistry & Biology

"The author . . . reveals much of his encyclopedic erudition and personality. . . . Bloch keeps science alive by treating nature with a degree of reductionism that leaves room for reverence and wonderment."—Bernhard Witkop, Science

"A baker’s dozen of essays that range from nutrition to sugar chemistry, mycobacteria, armadillos, and human disease. The essays stem from the author’s deep scientific insights, sentimental reflections, and from a fascination with current frontiers in medical science."—Arthur Kornberg, Pharos

"Konrad Bloch's book . . . contains very interesting thoughts regarding the evolutionary place of oxidation, the slow development of the cholesterol molecule and the metabolic defects that make domestic cats obligate carnivores."—Dennis Cotton, Biologist

"Konrad Bloch, master biochemist, examines science in terms of the commonplace and looks at the commonplace and the unusual in terms of biochemistry. The result is a delightful and readable book that will please both scientists and general readers. I was charmed, informed, and delighted by these essays."—Harold Morowitz

Winner of the 1996 Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication
ISBN: 9780300070552
Publication Date: February 27, 1997
278 pages, 6 x 9
72 b/w illus.