The Coil of Life: The Story of the Great Discoveries in the Life Sciences

By Ruth Moore | Go to book overview

XXII
THE COIL OF THE FUTURE

Nature herself is to be addressed; the paths she shows us are to be boldly trodden; for thus . . . shall we penetrate into the heart of her mystery.

WILLIAM HARVEY

IN THE STUDY of that nearest and most basic matter of them all--life itself in all its manifestations--Nature herself has been assiduously addressed during the past two hundred years. The paths she showed were carefully and sometimes boldly trodden. As Harvey predicted, this course has enabled us to penetrate deep into the heart of life's mystery.

This book has traced the great depth of that penetration-- from surface appearance and actions to the organs that keep us alive, to the tissues of which the organs are made, to the cells that compose the tissues, to the focal nucleus, to the chromosomes, the little threads within the nucleus which are the bearers and distributors of heredity.

And then came the wholly unexpected discovery that the familiar nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, were the master materials of the chromosomes and of life. Nearly all tests that so far have been devised show that the two tiny spirals of matter determine the form and structure of all life, its functioning, its color, its variety, and its continuity.

Thus, in less than two hundred years from the time when Lavoisier first demonstrated that man was not a mystic thing apart but a creature governed by the same physical laws as the rest of the universe, the base of life was reached. Here was life's starting point. All that the individual was to become and

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