How We Live and Why We Die: The Secret Lives of Cells

February 23, 2011
Author:
Lewis Wolpert
Publisher:
Faber and Faber (10/19/2009)

Publishers Weekly | Wolpert, professor emeritus of biology at University College London (Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast), conceives bodies as complex societies of cells, with each individual cell and cell type fulfilling a very specific role. As Wolpert explains, cells are incredibly complicated, representing evolution in action. Indeed, Wolpert asserts, However clever one thinks cells are, they almost always turn out to exceed one’s expectations.

He provides basic biological information about cell structure, genetics and reproduction, and then discusses the roles cells play in disease, aging, death, reproduction, memory, emotion and much more. In focusing on the process of human development, he marvels at how a single cell, a fertilized egg, can grow into a complex organism. Along the way, Wolpert lightly touches on some hot-button topics like the ethics of stem cell research; when a developing fetus might be considered human; and the ethics of cloning. His range is so great that he has little time to delve beneath the surface of any of the subjects he raises, making this a cursory introduction for the novice in basic cell biology and its implications