"...it is Van Loon's versatility and imagination as an illustrator which makes DNA for Beginners so entertaining and understandable."
(Review:
The Harvard Crimson: see below)

Borin Van Loon: DNA graphic guide cover<Paperback cover  Borin Van Loon: DNA hardback<Hardback (reduced in size) <French edition

DNA: a graphic guide to the molecule that shook the world Written by Israel Rosenfield & Edward Ziff, llustrated / designed by Borin Van Loon. Columbia University Press (258 pp.) Spring 2011 (ISBN: 9780231142717). French edition: L'ADN- La Science en bandes dessinées. Éditions Odile Jacob, Paris (ISBN: 9782738124166). [NB: Odile Jacob is the daughter of Francois Jacob, pioneering researcher in genetics (as featured in the PAJAMO section of the book).]

DNA for Beginners DNA for Beginners (monkey)[Original edition: Writers & Readers Publishing Inc., USA 1983; Republished 1984] 

This title differs from all others in this style of documentary comic books. It was published first in the USA and copies were shipped around the world, later published by Unwin Hyman in the U.K. Its birth pangs extended over fourteen months and its publishing history was chequered, to say the least. On the plus side, it had the benefit of being one of the first really accessible introductions to the sometimes baffling world of DNA. Garnering excellent reviews at the time of publication (including one by Sidney Brenner (pseudonym: 'Gene Mapping'), who is featured in the book), this led to the long-held desire by readers-in-the-know to see it updated. Now, thanks to the two authors, it has been.

Here are some samples of the new edition: first, 'The Origin Of Life' going back to the style used in some of the earliest lettering executed by Borin when he was at school; second, The Clone Show featuringfrom behind a finger-print textured wall,  a creature inspired by Animal: greatest drummer in the world. This page has been reworked in the new edition.
  Borin Van Loon: Origin Of Life  BVorin Van Loon: Clone Show

Borin Van Loon: DNA Bateson  Borin Van Loon: Virus module 

Sample pages from the DNA book
: William Bateson lectures on mutations to a 'curious' audience; and a lunar module-like virus landing on a bacteria the size of a moon.

DNA: a graphic guide to the molecule that shook the world
Completely revised edition, by Edward Ziff, Israel Rosenfield, and illustrated by Borin Van Loon
When it was originally published, DNA for Beginners was one of the most popular titles in The Beginners Series- a well-reviewed collection of documentary comic books for lay readers. Borrowing from the genre of bon image in France, these books struck a popular nerve by virtue of their ability to explain complicated ideas accurately,briefly, and in a quirky compelling manner. Now, Israel Rosenfeld and Ed Ziff, both leading researchers and writers in the field of neuroscience and psychology, have written a completely new edition of DNA for Beginners, which ambitiously addresses all the larger social, political, economic and philosophical issues surrounding DNA today. Once again Borin Van Loon brings his unique artistic talents to the subject. He uses, for instance, machine analogies to convey the central molecular processes of replication, transcription, translation and genetic regulation. The authors trace the progress in understanding the structure, control and replication of DNA and its cellular influences. They will address the genome project and its implications for health and understanding organic evolution, recent advances in understanding the control of biological development and species diversity, and stem cell research and its ethical dilemmas.

Ed Ziff is Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the NYU School of Medicine. His research began in biochemistry and now focuses on neuroscience. He is the author of over 130 articles in the leading scientific media.
Israel Rosenfield, Md, PhD teaches history and biology at John Jay College, CUNY. He has written many books for lay readers on neuroscience and the brain and a novel about Freud’s contribution to neuroscience, Freud’s Megalomania. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books.
Borin Van Loon is a freelance illustrator. He was the principle illustrator of the Beginner’s Series and the Introducing Series published by Icon Books. His illustrations from DNA for Beginners were featured at a special DNA exhibit at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge in 2003.




Reviews

The rough cutting edge
For quite awhile, I have been searching for a decent book covering the latest discoveries and theories in genetics. Most books that I have read are either too basic in their description of genetics or our too boring to read. This book was exactly what I have been wanting.
The book proved fun to read. But more importantly, it contains up to date information about genetics such gene splicing, methylation of DNA strands (epigenetics), and the diversity of antibodies from random gene combination. I have yet to find another book that attempts to explain all of these concepts to the layman.
I strongly appreciate the use of pictures and figures to convey the important ideas. Each picture in this book really is worth 1000 words.
Sadly, the book falls apart at the end. The last 15 pages contain no pictures. There is just text. Furthermore, the material in the last 15 pages is presented in a disorganized random fashion. But, I am not complaining because I attribute the rough ending to the book to the fact that the field of genetics is continually evolving. Therefore, there cannot really be an ending to the story. I sincerely hope that a revised version of the book with a cleaned up ending eventually published. With a little improvement, this book could become a classic text in the field of genetics. 
By jostmey, 5.0 out of 5 stars. Amazon.com 14 Nov 2011

Not bad, except for some specific terms left in the clouds.
What about references?, I don't know where they got all the information regarding biological properties of DNA... Gregor (June 7 2011). www.goodreads.com

I was expecting a high-level, low-content book about DNA. But this is actually quite detailed and does not talk down to the reader. After a brief introduction to the history of genetics the book dives right in to the chemistry of amino acids, nucleic acids, RNA, RNA polymerase, and (naturally) DNA. All very engaging and informative. Dale (Oct 08, 2011). www.goodreads.com


The book is novel, easy to read
and combines excellent cartoons with good personal vignettes and history. I spent many years mastering genetics and yet learned new and valuable things from this book. Take a look, you will not be disappointed. --Robert Trivers, Rutgers University [NZ Review]

The Stuff of Life
There's no absolutely easy way to understand the breakthrough that Francis Crick and James Watson were approaching as the convened regularly at The Eagle pub in Cambridge. Still, this comic-book-like treatment of one of science's most momentous discoveries comes as close as we're likely to get. Scientists Ziff and Rosenfield and illustrator Van Loon have teamed up to provide an accessible look at the history, the science and the people behind DNA, the molecule that is, after all, behind all of genetics and biology. From a brief history of genetics, to the role of genes in evolution to the development of biotechnology to the sex live of bacteria, all the ideas and players are here. Right now, you may not know the difference between a prokaryote and a eukaryote, but read this richly detailed work and that could be your next cocktail party opener.
Uncredited review from The Globe & Mail (Canada)  'Quick Reads section. (http://aol.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/aolstory/TGAM/20110219/BOMINIS0219)


A top recommendation for any general lending library
The collaborative work of Israel Rosenfeld, Edward Ziff and Borin Van Loon, A Graphic Guide to the DNA Molecule That Shook the World provides an authoritative survey examining the history, science and facts behind DNA. It's a combination of genetics and graphic novel, combining cartoons with personal vignettes, history, and science and is a top recommendation for any general lending library. [5 stars] 
Amazon.com review, June 12, 2011 by Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

If you've ever thought about cloning yourself...., February 28, 2011
This review is from: DNA: A Graphic Guide to the Molecule that Shook the World (Paperback)
If you've ever contemplated cloning yourself in order to be in two places at once, this book is essential to understanding how to make that happen.
A riotous, Monty Python-esque aesthetic applied to what might otherwise be very dry strands of essential information.
Even a belligerent teenager could appreciate this one.
A Double Helix of Facts and Fun.
By petermike; 5 out of 5 stars; Amazon.com

TRACING the history of DNA from Gregor Mendel's peas to genetic engineering, DNA: A graphic guide to the molecule that shook the world outlines the key scientists, experiments and advances in the field of genetics. It also provides a helpful stepwise introduction to biological concepts.
Given the visual potential of a graphic guide, it is a shame to see text dominate at the expense of images. The cartoons often feel like they exist merely to fill blank spaces between chunks of text, a problem exacerbated by a series of visual non sequiturs. Watson and Crick are depicted as Batman and Robin for no discernible reason, for example, and enzymes are shown as complicated trucks, which distracts from the concepts being illustrated.
A graphic guide should make technical subject matter more accessible through illustration. Unfortunately, in this case the result reads more like an abridged textbook. Comic-book fans should seek their biology elsewhere.
Cian O'Luanaigh, contributor (http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/02/a-comic-book-guide-to-genomics.html)



First Edition reviews
>Click here for Sydney Brenner's pseudonymous Nature review of the book.

>Two illustrated guides to genetics were first published in 1983: Gonick and Wheelis's 'Cartoon guide to genetics' and 'DNA for beginners'. The former generally used cartoons to provide humour while the latter made excellent use of the comic strip format to explain complex science. If you find a copy of this rare book, buy it. Don't confuse this title with one from the same stable called 'Genetics for beginners': 'DNA' is far better and focuses specifically on the double helix story and the early work on the genetic code, gene function and genetic modification which followed. The level of technical detail conveyed is impressive, although it usually proved too much for my A-Level students.
Copyright © National Centre for Biotechnology Education, 2006 | www.ncbe.reading.ac.uk
http://www.ncbe.reading.ac.uk/DNA50/reviews.html

>DNA for Beginners is simply the best introduction to genetics you can buy. Sylvester and Klotz write in The Gene Age that molecular biologists "stand out among scientists as intensely visual, as imaginative rather than analytic."  DNA for Beginners puts this visual imagination into pictures. And what pictures they are! Borin Van Loon's clever and exhaustive illustrations should be the required text for anyone who wants to design educational graphics.
 A documentary comic book from the prolific Writers' and Readers' Publishing Cooperative. DNA for Beginners succeeds better than similar introductions from the same publisher such as Marx for Beginners or Freud for Beginners, which deal with less visual subjects. Although titled a "comic book," DNA for Beginners should not be confused with science-inspired pulp serials such as "DNA gents" (which details the adventures of a handful of artificial people created by a giant corporation to do its dirty work.) Thoroughly researched, simply written, beautifully laid out, DNA for Beginners is in fact more serious than most popular science writing. With Van Loon's magnificent drawings to grab the reader's attention, the text can remain simple and straightforward and avoid the eye-catching exaggeration all too common in science journalism. Authors Rosenfield [and Ziff] provide precision with an English brevity of expression.
 But it is Van Loon's versatility and imagination as an illustrator which makes DNA for Beginners so entertaining and understandable. The range of his models is extraordinary. He draws on Auguste Rodin's Thinker, Andy Warhol's soup cans, Thomas Nast's cartoons of Victorian social commentary, and dozens of other artists' works. Caricatures, engravings, photographs, and a diagrams are all intermingled without ever clashing. Gregor Mendel's famous pea plants, study of which led to the discovery of genes, show up as Jolly Green Giants.
 Even the scientists are portrayed with an astonishing diversity of styles; at different times Van Loon pictures Francis Crick and James Watson, discoverers of the double helix structure of DNA, as Bat[man and Robin and other fictional characters]. In addition, the comic book format is the only one in which the arcane and often ridiculous jargon of molecular biology makes sense.
 ... Even the most sparkling writing could never explain molecular genetics without a good set of pictures; DNA for Beginners is thus far better for anyone interested in genetics out of pure curiosity.
(http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=200950) [This review has some typos and omissions in its web version: indicated by square brackets.]
'The Harvard Crimson' review (no writer credited, sadly). 23.1.1984

 >If you want to understand how DNA works and proteins are made and implications of biotechnology to society then this book can explain complex terms such that an idiot can understand it. I have been interested in biotechnology and how it works. I would rate this book on the top of my list.

>Recomended for any student of Biological sciences. During my first degree (Biochemistry & Mol. Biology), this was one of the best and most user-friendly of textbooks. Placed next to Stryer and Voet & Voet. Though still relevant, it is begining to date and I would encourage the authors do a revised edition covering the past twenty years.

>Can be understood by nonscientists. This book is best appreciated by aspiring biologist. Book lacks most current information concerning genetics, i.e. Gene Cloning and the Human Genome Project. Overall is an outstanding easy read that accurately covers many important concepts in genetics. (4 and a half stars)
(All three reviews above from http://www.fetchbook.info)

Easy reading, yet with depth
I recently picked this up again having not read it since I bought it over 20 years ago. I was impressed, as I was on the first occasion, by how well the comic-book style allowed one to be rapidly drawn in to some fairly deep subject matter.
This was the first example of this style of work I had seen. Although more familiar now, it was a revelation in 1984. "DNA for beginners" encouraged me to acquire some other Writers & Readers books. Whilst I found them all enjoyable none had quite the consistency or depth of this book. A number of my friends were doing post-doc research in molecular biology at the time and they too were impressed by it.
Whatever your level of interest in the subject, and almost whatever your current level of knowledge, you are likely to find this book informative and enjoyable. By using a good mixture of graphical, pictorial and textual elements to get its message across, you end up absorbing a lot more information than you might expect from a comic book. There's also a good sense of narrative with tension, which compares with the best popular science writing today.
By "ashleymnemosyne",  5 Feb 2006


Borin Van Loon's DNA mural

Darwin...
Genetics...
Buddha...
Eastern Philosophy...
Sociology
Cultural Studies...
Mathematics...
Media Studies...
Critical Theory...
Science...
Psychotherapy...
Hinduism
Statistics
Economics



Home / Email
©2004 Copyright throughout this site belongs to Borin Van Loon