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SCHRÖDINGER, Erwin (1887–1961)

What is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell. Based on Lectures delivered under the auspices of the Institute at Trinity College, Dublin, in February 1943.
Cambridge, at the University Press, 1944.

First edition in the publisher’s cloth with printed dust jacket preserved of this great science classic of the twentieth century. Schrödinger’s little book constitutes a major contribution to biological thought, as it was here he introduced ”what was to become one of the most fundamental concepts in the new science of molecular biology; the chromosome is a message written in code ... this was the birth of the concept of a ’genetic code’” (Moore, Schrödinger: Life and Thought, p 396). The distinguished physicist’s exploration of the question, which lies at the heart of biology, was written for the layman, but proved one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of the DNA. The recipients of the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their elucidation of the structure of DNA, each testified to how Schrödinger’s book turned their interest to what became ”molecular biology”: ”From the moment I read Schrödinger’s What is Life I became polarized toward finding out the secret of the gene” (Watson); ”Partly on account of the Bomb I had lost some interest in physics. I was therefore very interested when I read Schrödinger’s book What is Life? and was struck by the concept of a highly complex molecular structure which controlled living processes” (Wilkins in his Nobel Lecture). What impressed Crick about the book at the time was that ”fundamental biological problems could be thought about in precise terms, using the concepts of physics and chemistry”. One was left with the impression that ”great things were just around the corner” (Crick). Erwin Schrödinger shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933 with Paul Dirac ”for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”.

Collation: Pp viii, 91, (1) blank. Two plates (plate I-IV printed on both sides) and 12 figures in the text.

Binding: Publisher’s green cloth, gilt lettering on spine, with printed dust jacket.

Provenance: Signature in pencil on front fly-leaf: "Eric de Peyer 1945".

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