The Biochemical Approach to Life
Jevons (F.R.)
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  1. What is biochemistry? A few decades ago this was not a question that many people would ask, but today nearly everyone has heard about this young science and there must be very many who want to know more about it. It is at present particularly exciting since it is developing at an extremely rapid rate and new and interesting findings are constantly coming to light. Biochemists are seeking the answers to many fundamental questions that we all ask ourselves as soon as we start wondering about things. What are we made of? How do our bodies work? What is life? Already the answers to some of these questions are beginning to emerge. Much work has been done and the biochemical approach has been shown to be a highly successful one; many new lines of research are opening up and even more work remains for the future. Most of the foundations of the science have been laid but its full development and its application to practical affairs in medicine and industry are largely for the future.
  2. Since biochemistry is considered to be a borderline science embodying both biology and chemistry, it is rarely given as prominent a place as it deserves in any school curriculum or even in the universes, so that many science students are never introduced to the subject and its fascinations until they have already decided in which fields to specialize. This is one of the reasons why this book is so extremely welcome. It is clearly and easily written and should be comprehensible to anyone with an elementary knowledge of science, yet it gives a lucid and stimulating introduction to biochemistry.
  3. Dr. Jevons has himself made important contributions to this science in the laboratory and much of his enthusiasm for the subject appears in this book, which helps to make it extremely good reading not only to the novice but also to more experienced scientists, who will certainly find something new in it, especially where the history of biochemistry is dealt with. This is a recent interest of Dr. Jevons and the strongly historical flavour of this book increases its readability and helps to put the whole of biochemistry into its proper perspective.
  4. Indeed, this is the sort of book that I would like to have written myself and I regard it as an honour to be associated with it and to make my contribution in this easy manner of writing a brief foreword.
    → Fred Sanger (see Wikipedia: Frederick Sanger)

  1. Biochemistry is no longer a sideline of science but one of its main advancing frontiers. One need not be an expert to be aware of this. It is only necessary to look, for instance, at the large number of recent Nobel prizes given for work of predominantly biochemical mature; they include nearly half the awards made since the Second World War both for chemistry and for medicine. (Young hopefuls can thus put two promising irons in the fire by choosing biochemistry.)
  2. The biochemical approach, then, is clearly proving fruitful. In this book, I have tried to give some insight into its nature. To many, biochemistry presents the forbidding image of a vastly complicated kind of chemistry. Here, it is presented rather as a very fundamental kind of biology. The emphasis is on biochemistry as a way of explaining the phenomena of life. To give conceptual coherence to the individual topics treated, I have tried to build up a rationale of the biochemical approach. From isolated molecules and events on the molecular scale, typified by proteins and single enzyme reactions, the discussion moves on to their collaboration and organization above the molecular level in subcellular particles. Later, attention is directed to the problems of finding out how molecular events underlie macroscopic phenomena, with special reference to the modes of action of vitamins, drugs and genetic factors.
  3. A discussion of biochemistry can hardly rise above the plane of the trivial without using some of the language of chemistry. The technicalities have been kept to a minimum, however, and the chemical and biological background assumed is not above school level. My aim has been la haute vulgarisation – to provide food for thought for those who would like to apply their minds intelligently to the subject even though they may start with little specialized knowledge about it.


George Allen & Unwin, London, 1964. Paperback.

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