Molecular Biology of the Gene (7th Edition)
THE NEW EDITION OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE GENE appears in this, its 7th edition, on the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, an occasion celebrated by our cover design. The double-helical structure, held together by specific pairing between the bases on the two strands, has become one of the iconic images of science. The image of the microscope was perhaps the icon of science in the late 19th century, displaced by the mid 20th century by the graphical representation of the atom with its orbiting electrons. But by the end of the century that image had in turn given way to the double helix.
The field of molecular biology as we understand it today was born out of the discovery of theDNAstructure and the agenda for research that that structure immediately provided. The paper byWatson and Crick proposing the double helix ended with a nowfamous sentence: “It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairingwe have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.” The structure suggested how DNA could replicate, opening the way to investigate, in molecular terms, how genes are passed down through generations. It was also immediately apparent that the order of bases along aDNAmolecule could represent a “genetic code,” and so an attack on that second great mystery of genetics—how genes encode characteristics—could also be launched.
By the time the first edition of Molecular Biology of the Gene was published, just 12 years later in 1965, it had been confirmed that DNA replicated in the manner suggested by the model, the genetic code had all but been cracked, and the mechanism by which genes are expressed, and how that expression is regulated, had been established at least in outline. The field of molecular biology was ripe for its first textbook, defining for the first time the curriculum for undergraduate courses in this topic.
Our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these processes has hugely increased over the last 48 years since that first edition, often driven by technological advances, including DNA sequencing (another anniversary this year is the 10th anniversary of completion of the human genome project). The current edition of Molecular Biology of the Gene celebrates both the central intellectual framework of the field put in place in that first edition and the extraordinary mechanistic, biological, and evolutionary understanding that has since been achieved.
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