What Mad Pursuit

by Francis Crick

Rating: ★★★

A fairly candid and humble account of Crick's career, including a few significant episodes such as his involvement in the development of the double helix model of DNA. Crick focuses on presenting some of the reality of research, including the many ways theories fall down, the lack of any sense of immediate gratification when you get something right (they were worried their model would be shown to be nonsense) and the need to engage closely with a lot of experimental details to generate meaningful theoretical models.

Crick tries to write for the lay reader, but there are many segments of the book which become disorienting without a solid understanding of basic organic chemistry and cell biology. He can write good communicative analogies, but it seems that he forgets or overlooks the need for them at some points, with an understandable focus on the historic research problems and occasions he wants to discuss.

Not the best book for picking up bits of molecular biology, but serves as a slightly scattershot history of the field, with some anecdotes that humanise the big figures of the era, and hints about general approaches to scientific research. Crick is relatable and drily amusing, which helps smooth over the difficult portions