The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson


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In 2012, Nobel Prize winning scientist Jennifer Doudna hit upon an invention that will transform the future of the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions. It has already been deployed to cure deadly diseases, fight the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, and make inheritable changes in the genes of babies.

But what does that mean for humanity? Should we be hacking our own DNA to make us less susceptible to disease? Should we democratise the technology that would allow parents to enhance their kids? After discovering this CRISPR, Doudna is now wrestling these even bigger issues. The Code Breaker is an examination of how life as we know it is about to change – and a brilliant portrayal of the woman leading the way. ‘The Code Breaker’s confident, cinematic style makes Crispr accessible like never before, taking readers on a journey that is exciting, as well as ethically treacherous.’ The Financial Times ‘The CRISPR history holds obvious appeal for Walter Isaacson, a biographer of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci.

In “The Code Breaker” he reprises several of his previous themes – science, genius, experiment, code, thinking different – and devotes a full length book to a female subject for the first time. Jennifer Doudna, a genuine heroine for our time, may be the code breaker of the book’s title, but she is only part of Isaacson’s story… The Code Breaker” is in some respects a journal of our 2020 plague year.

By the final chapter, Isaacson has enrolled in a vaccine trial’ – New York Times ‘Nobody knows this stuff and these people, and explains them, quite like Isaacson. If you need to know about CRISPR – and you do – this is the place to start’ – The Sunday Times

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