Center for Humanities & History of Modern Biology

Science Books That Changed The World

What is Life?

New Scientist online is currently holding a competition to determine what is the most influential popular science book of all-time. 25 titles have been shortlisted by the journal, including Dr. Watson's famous memoir, The Double Helix.  The list compiles many of the most famous publications of the past three centuries, including On the Origin of Species, The Selfish Gene, and A Brief History of Time.  There are, however, some notable books left off the list, such as Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and a personal favorite, Surely You're Joking, Mr, Feynman!  It should be noted that Watson himself would almost certainly choose Erwin Schr√∂dinger's What is Life?, which inspired him to change his studies from ornithology to genetics, and set him on a path to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

Image courtesy of the the Central Library for Physics in Vienna.