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The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974)

de Lewis Thomas

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1,918297,051 (4.17)33
Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things.  Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine.  Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us."… (més)
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» Mira també 33 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 29 (següent | mostra-les totes)
To ruminate. To talk at length but never to make the big conclusion. Each chapter had a title and I’d think, "oh good, this has promise" yet it seemed like in each instance it was if he was saying “ I know I’ve been talking about social organizations but here’s some biological terms I know.” And each chapter seemed to end with a summary akin to “and Bob’s your uncle!” ( )
  shaundeane | Sep 13, 2020 |
While this book was shorter than I expected, it was still quite enjoyable. It is a collection of 29 essays that were originally presented in the New England Journal of Medicine. I was expecting a focus on cells or something of that nature, but I was wrong. It includes little ideas that are about cells, like how mitochondria are symbiotic with our cells. The book also contains a lot of musings on termites, ants, wasps, and other social insects. All in all, this book was quite well done. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Lives of a Cell is a collection of 29 beautifully written essays on science. Although focused on biology, you'll find essays touching on etymology, cosmology and healthcare. That's a blessing for the layperson. The treatment of some topics feels dated. For instance, genetics is mentioned only briefly. On other topics, such as treatment of the elderly and palliative care, Thomas shows great foresight.

In addition, Thomas dispels myths and adds interesting anecdotes. Several stick in my mind. First, mitochondria in our cells have more in common with bacteria than other animals. Second, illness is often caused by bacteria themselves becoming infected or abnormal. Third, symbiosis is an arrangement as common as competition, and often more stable. Fourth, many insect species are social and have a critical mass beyond which they act as a single organism. There are many more nuggets which feed the layman's mind and expand horizons.

Given the collection's breadth of outlook, I recommend this for anyone interested in biology, nature or science generally. ( )
  jigarpatel | Apr 28, 2019 |
A collection of very short essays from the 1970s in which Lewis Thomas, a medical researcher, muses about various topics related to medicine, biology, and nature. He is particularly interested in mitochondria, social insects and the ways in which human society does or doesn't resemble theirs, and the importance of basic research in medical science.

This is regarded as a real classic of science writing, or at least of writing by a scientist, so it's a little surprising it took me this long to get to it. I must say that, when I first started it, I didn't exactly think it was living up to its reputation. The essays here are really tiny, more a series of individual thoughts than anything else. And Thomas not infrequently uses some technical terms without explaining them, which I didn't find too much of a problem, but which does make it feel less accessible than I was expecting. He also engages in a fair amount of speculation and the occasional flight of fancy that aren't at all scientific, which bugs me possibly more than it ought to.

But the more I read, the more I came to appreciate Thomas's writing. It's rather beautiful, always thoughtful and often thought-provoking, and laced with subtle wit. And although it is very much of its time, aside from a few now-humorous remarks about computers, it's actually aged quite well.

So. Do I still think Lewis Thomas is over-hyped, for lack of a better phrase? Well, yes, a bit. But he is still good. ( )
  bragan | Dec 11, 2018 |
Brief glimpses into the many facets of our biological cosmos. Combines wit, professional insight and a strong sense about the human condition.
  CenterPointMN | Jun 13, 2018 |
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Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things.  Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine.  Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us."

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