The Logic of Life

The Logic of Life

A History of Heredity

François Jacob


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“The most remarkable history of biology that has ever been written.”—Michel Foucault

Nobel Prize–winning scientist François Jacob’s The Logic of Life is a landmark book in the history of biology and science. Focusing on heredity, which Jacob considers the fundamental feature of living things, he shows how, since the sixteenth century, the scientific understanding of inherited traits has moved not in a linear, progressive way, from error to truth, but instead through a series of frameworks. He reveals how these successive interpretive approaches—focusing on visible structures, internal structures (especially cells), evolution, genes, and DNA and other molecules—each have their own power but also limitations. Fundamentally challenging how the history of biology is told, much as Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions did for the history of science as a whole, The Logic of Life has greatly influenced the way scientists and historians view the past, present, and future of biology.


François Jacob:
François Jacob (1920–2013) was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1965 and was one of the world’s leading molecular biologists.