Life is all around us, abundant and diverse. It is truly a marvel. But what does it actually mean to be alive, and how do we decide what is living and what is not?
After a lifetime of studying life, Nobel Prize–winner Sir Paul Nurse, one of the world’s leading scientists, has taken on the challenge of defining it. Written with great personality and charm, his accessible guide takes readers on a journey to discover biology’s five great building blocks, demonstrates how biology has changed and is changing the world, and reveals where research is headed next.
To survive all the challenges that face the human race today — population growth, pandemics, food shortages, climate change — it is vital that we first understand what life is. Never before has the question ‘What is life?’ been answered with such insight, clarity, and humanity, and never at a time more urgent than now.
‘A masterful overview of biology that draws together big ideas, luminous details and personal insights. You emerge with a more profound sense of wonder about the diversity, complexity and interconnectedness of living organisms. It’s the biggest question in biology. And this book represents the best answer I’ve ever seen. Paul Nurse is a rare life-form — a Nobel-winning scientist and a brilliant communicator.’
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‘In this vibrant, lively book, Sir Paul Nurse, discoverer of some of the crucial genes that control the division of cells, takes a deep dive into biology by illuminating five of the essential characteristics of “life”. The writing is so spirited and knowledgeable — and the five sections so full of wondrous revelations — that I could not put it down. This is a book that will inspire a generation of biologists.’
‘A beautifully written exploration of perhaps the most important question in science. I felt I was being given rare access to a truly deep understanding of a complex and profound subject. This is the best introduction to modern biology I’ve read.’
‘A nearly perfect guide to the wonder and complexity of existence.’
‘Nurse provides a concise, lucid response to an age-old question. His writing is not just informed by long experience, but also wise, visionary, and personal. I read the book in one sitting, and felt exhilarated by the end, as though I'd run for miles — from the author’s own garden into the interior of the cell, back in time to humankind’s most distant ancestors, and through the laboratory of a dedicated scientist at work on what he most loves to do.’