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A Century of Nature

Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World

Many of the scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century were first reported in the journal Nature. A Century of Nature brings together in one volume Nature’s greatest hits—reproductions of seminal contributions that changed science and the world, accompanied by essays written by leading scientists (including four Nobel laureates) that provide historical context for each article, explain its insights in graceful, accessible prose, and celebrate the serendipity of discovery and the rewards of searching for needles in haystacks.

Read excerpts from the book.

378 pages | 7 halftones, 23 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2003


Biological Sciences: Biochemistry, Biology--Systematics, Evolutionary Biology, Microbiology


Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

History of Science

Physical Sciences: Physics--Popular Books


"Nature’s eminence attracts papers of revolutionary import, making this volume of 21 articles of wide interest. A preface to each article explains its recognition . . . not only as a milestone in its field but also as meaningful for ordinary people. . . . This anthology’s aura of discovery will absorb avid science fans."


"Some of the original papers almost leap off the page. . . . In other cases it is the accompanying essays, many written by those working close to the original research, that bring the papers to life. But whatever the topic--plate tectonics, extrasolar planets, T-cell immunology, the ozone hole, the generation of animal body plans, cloning--the essays also entice the reader into far greater appreciation of the work than can be obtained when it is transmitted through textbooks."

Phil Campbell | Nature

"Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln give us a handsome little book, a celebration of 21 of the most explosive and influential papers published by <I>Nature<I> in the 20th century. Beginning with the unearthing of the African origins of humanity in 1925 and ending with the identification in 1995 of the first extrasolar planets that may harbor life . . . <I>A Century of Nature<I> is a pleasure to read."

Oren S. Harman | JAMA

“Here is a fascinating romp through many fields of twentieth-century science, as captured by twenty-one classic discoveries originally published in Nature, the leading weekly journal of science. You’ll find accounts of the first laser and pulsar and quasar, the discoveries of neutrons and nuclear fission, and finds of the first African ape-men. Comparisons of the original papers themselves with comments by experts placing the paper in perspective today make entertaining reading.”<\#209>

Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

A Century of Nature brings together in one volume a collection of the most important documents in the history of many of the sciences. Whether they cover physics or biology, geology or chemistry, astronomy or paleontology, every one of these articles records a discovery that started a new line of research or a new way of thinking. This book provides a much more solid basis for scientific literacy than the many popular books that are devoted to the latest scientific fad.”

Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Steven Weinberg
Preface, by Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln
Chronology of twentieth-century science

1. Raymond Dart and our African origins
C. K. Brain
1925 "Australopithecus africanus: the man-ape of South Africa" by Raymond A. Dart

2. Electrons make waves
Akira Tonomura
1927 "The scattering of electrons by a single crystal of nickel" by C. Davisson and L. H. Germer

3. The atom completed
Maurice Goldhaber
1932 "Possible existence of a neutron" by J. Chadwick

4. Superfluidity: a new state of matter
Allan Griffin
1938 "Viscosity of liquid helium below the -point" by P. Kapitza

5. From nuclear physics to nuclear weapons
Joseph Rotblat
1939 "Disintegration of uranium by neutrons: a new type of nuclear reaction" by Lise Meitner and O. R. Frisch

6. The double helix
Sydney Brenner
1953 "A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid" by J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick

7. Dawn of structural biology
Gregory A. Petsko
1958 "A three-dimensional model of the myoglobin molecule obtained by X-ray analysis" by J. C. Kendrew, G. Bodo, H. M. Dintzis, R. G. Parrish, H. Wyckoff, and D. C. Phillips

8. The first laser
Charles H. Townes
1960 "Stimulated optical radiation in ruby" by T. H. Maiman

9. The quasar enigma
Malcolm Longair
1963 "3C 273: a star-like object with large red-shift" by M. Schmidt

10. Seafloor magnetism and drifting continents
Dan McKenzie
1963 "Magnetic anomalies over oceanic ridges" by F. J. Vine and D. H. Matthews

11. Stellar timekeepers
Joseph H. Taylor
1968 "Observation of a rapidly pulsating radio source" by A. Hewish, S. J. Bell, J. D. H. Pilkington, P. F. Scott, and R. A. Collins

12. Viruses reverse the information flow
Robin A. Weiss
1970 "RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of RNA tumour viruses" by David Baltimore; "RNA-dependent DNA polymerase in virions of Rous sarcoma virus" by Howard M. Temin and Satoshi Mizutani

13. Images of body and brain
Marcus E. Raichle
1973 "Image formation by induced local interactions: examples employing nuclear magnetic resonance" by P. C. Lauterbur

14. Journey to the T cell
Jonathan C. Howard
1974 "Restriction of in vitro T cell-mediated cytotoxicity in lymphocytic choriomeningitis within a syngeneic or semiallogeneic system" by R. M. Zinkernagel and P. C. Doherty

15. Molecular switches for "animal electricity"
Fred J. Sigworth
1976 "Single-channel currents recorded from membrane of denervated frog muscle fibres" by Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann

16. DNA sequencing: the silent revolution
Peter Little
1977 "Nucleotide sequence of bacteriophage X174 DNA" by F. Sanger, G. M. Air, B. G. Barrell, N. L. Brown, A. R. Coulson, J. C. Fiddes, C. A. Hutchison III, P. M. Slocombe, and M. Smith

17. The blueprint of animals revealed
Ginés Morata
1980 "Mutations affecting segment number and polarity in Drosophila" by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus

18. A hole in Earths shield
Richard S. Stolarski
1985 "Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClOx/NOx interaction" by J. C. Farman, B. G. Gardiner, and J. D. Shanklin

19. Carbon cages and carbon tubes
Philip Ball
1985 "C60: buckminsterfullerene" by H. W. Kroto, J. R. Heath, S. C. OBrien, R. F. Curl, and R. E. Smalley

20. Seeking other solar systems
Gordon A. H. Walker
1995 "A Jupiter-mass companion to a solar-type star" by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz

21. Dolly!
Davor Solter
1997 "Viable offspring derived from fetal and adult mammalian cells" by I. Wilmut, A. E. Schnieke, J. McWhir, A. J. Kind, and K. H. S. Campbell


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