London: Macmillan, 1954. 1st Edition. First edition of Gamow’s highly significant discovery of four different kinds of amino-acids – nucleotides – that were capable of information storage and transfer within a living cell. Gamow here proposes the ‘genetic code’ and proves that “life is guided by information and inorganic processes are not” (Yockey, Information Theory, 8). “Gamow conjectured that DNA provided a direct template for proteins. When looked at in a certain way, Gamow contended, DNA could be seen to have twenty different cavities along its length, a number equal to that of the common amino acids” (The Francis Crick Papers, Defining the Genetic Coding Problem).
Gamow’s work was first printed in this volume of Nature in the form of a letter to Watson, ironically, the first positive response to the discovery of DNA that he and Crick had received.
"In early 1954, less than a year after J. D. Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helical structure of DNA, Gamow recognized that the information contained in the four different kinds of nucleotides (adenine, thymine, guanine, cytosine) constituting the DNA chains could be translated into the sequence of twenty amino acids which form protein molecules by counting all possible triplets one can form from four different quantities” (DSB).
“The chemistry of life is controlled by digital sequences recorded in DNA, as Gamow [in this paper] was the first to realize. Life is guided by information and inorganic processes are not” (Yockey, 8). Sixty years later the focus remains on the ‘double helix’ and biochemistry, but it was also of great import to discover “that the life message is digital, linear, and segregated” (ibid).
“Gamow’s suggestion is that life is more than complicated chemistry and that the digital information in DNA sequences is set to the digital information in the proteome by means of a code. It was not until 2001 that Watson acknowledged the essential contribution made by George Gamow” (ibid, 10).
Heretofore, Gamow had been a physicist and a cosmologist. “[The remarkable way in which Gamow could rapidly enter a more or less unfamiliar field at the forefront of its activity and make a highly creative contribution to it, often far more by intuition than by calculation, led Ulam to characterize his work as "perhaps the last example of amateurism in scientific work on a grand scale” (DSB).
ALSO IN THIS VOLUME: the first edition of Huxley and Hanson’s ground-breaking ‘sliding filament’ theory of how muscles function; their theory is “the foundation of modern understanding of muscle mechanics” (Wikipedia). ALSO: First edition of the nomenclature designed to provide symbols for the startling new developments in the field of fundamental particles. This nomenclature is largely still in use today. Item #476
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Macmillian & Sons. Volume 173, complete volume. 4to (10.25.x 7.5 inches; 256 x 186mm). Ex-libris bearing only discrete stamps on the flyleaf, pastedown and title page; no spine markings whatsoever. Bound in blue cloth, gilt-lettered at the spine. Solidly and tightly bound; light rubbing at the edges. Very clean inside and out. Very good condition.