Model-making Books
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by Borin Van Loon
DNA: the marvellous molecule
The subtle intricacies of the invisible world of Deoxyribonucleic Acid explained (for teenagers and all ages beyond) by means of cut-out models and a delightful mini-book! Learn about the extraordinary influence of genetics, bacteria and viruses on all aspects of life on Earth. You can even build your own virus and see how it injects its DNA into a parasitised cell in this inventive book. [Originally published by Tarquin Publications, ISBN 0906212758.]

The book and its model featured with other Van Loon DNA-related work (about half a dozen pieces) in an exhibition called 'Representations of the Double Helix' at the Whipple Museum, Cambridge, U.K. - next door to the famous Cavendish laboratories - throughout 2003 to celebrate 50 years since the discovery of the structure of DNA by not only Crick and Watson, but also Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin (whose work was a vital contribution). The accompanying book of the same title by S. de Chadarevian and H. Kamminga (ISBN 0 906271 207) includes a full colour spread on Borin's model and book cover shown here, plus mono illustrations from 'DNA for Beginners' and 'Introducing Genetics'. See also the DNA mural in the Science Museum.


Borin Van Loon: DNA Wisconsin site modelHey, we found a wee picture of Borin's DNA model on

"...Talking about paper models, I must bend my own rule,
to mention a book for sale by Borin Van Loon entitled DNA: The Marvellous Molecule which seems to cover all this ground as well. With a double helix model, a nucleotide model, a baculovirus model to build to see how it injects its DNA into a parasitised cell, a 32 page minibook describing the material in accessible language and as an added bonus a storage box for the models. I haven't seen it but it sounds impressive. Borin Van Loon exhibited his work at the Whipple Museum in Cambridge, U.K. - next door to the famous Cavendish laboratories..."
(Kirok of L'Stok, New South Wales, Australia)

Letter to Gerald Jenkins, Tarquin Publications:
'Thank you for the copy of 'DNA: The Marvellous Molecule'. The text is full of important biological information [presented] in an interesting way and the models look as if they are a lot of fun to make. My secretary enjoyed reading the text. I plan to pass it on to my grandchildren, though I should perhaps tell you that my wife really dislikes the drawing of Jim and myself; but then she ... is an artist.' (From Francis Crick, The Salk Institute, San Diego, California. May 1, 1991.) (This recently rediscovered letter is most gratifying. It's also interesting that Borin has often found that caricatures of famous people are seldom liked by their subjects, though everyone else agrees it looks just like them.)

Great! (Well for an esoteric bunch of people anyway :-) The double helix and lambda phage are really cool models to display in your office, lab (or living room :-) if you work in the field of genetics research (and have an immature streak in you, like me :-). My PARENTS gave me this as a Christmas present about eight years ago, and I spent an enjoyable few hours ignoring my relatives and making the two main models instead :-)!! Of course, most people who think the models are cool will know the facts in the book backwards, so I'm not really sure who it's meant to be aimed at. Probably kids, but they might not be quite interested enough to take the time to bother making the model unless they're really into it and are budding geneticists of the future. I mainly recommend it for (immature) genetics researchers/ students/ enthusiasts, who are permitted to ignore the text :-) (well, apart from the bit explaining which bit to glue to which bit; that's kinda useful :-) (LAE (

DNA for Kids. The book is written for young adults in mind. DNA is simplified with cut-out models, colored pictures, diagrams. It is only 32 pages. Perfect book for explaining DNA to Young Adults. It is expensive but I could not find any other book to show DNA to young people and get their imagination going. (hacibey from Boston, Ma USA) (Expensive? Some mistake,surely?)

Basic facts for people interested in learning a new subject. I wanted to use this book to learn the basic facts about DNA. It is not very clear, but it manages to get the most basic information across to its audience. The books pages are arranged in a way which is easy to follow and it's paragraghs aren't over powering and full of huge words. I feel it is aimed at a younger audience as it contains a pull out section where you make your own DNA model. It would be ideal for a child studying DNA at GCSE level. I found it most helpful as an extra revision practise book. All in all a good informative book. Well done! (A reader from South Yorkshire, England) (We think this must be what's called "a mixed review"...)

Dna-riffic. This book is very informative about the operation of DNA, it includes a fact-full mini-book and complete model of the DNA molecule. It also has a model of a Virus cell. (A reader from Waipawa, Central HB New Zealand)

Yesterday I wrote
>Recently I ran across a paper model book of DNA structure--sort of a 'paper doll' book for DNA. It's got a double helix, as well as a set of base pairs to illustrate complementarity and a (rather impressive and sophisticated) model of a virus. This morning I found a request in my emailbox to post the ISBN. The book is called "DNA: The Marvellous Molecule", and it's by Borin Van Loon. ('DNA Explained!' is splashed across the front. Unfortunately, close examination has not revealed the key to my thesis project. So it goes.) It's got a double helix model, baculovirus model, nucleotide model, a wordy little 'minibook', and--bonus!--a storage box for your models. Some assembly required. ISBN is 0-906212-75-8; published by Tarquin Publications, Norfolk, England; copyright 1990.
Cheers, AK (Angelina Kantola, University of Washington, Seattle)

You would have to be a loon to not enjoy this book
Every school in the country should have one of these to teach children science from an early age. It is exciting and informative yet still shows that science can be fun. Definitely Marvellous!! Get your glue at the ready . . . (A reader from Tooting, UK )

Geodesic domes
Geodesic means 'earth-dividing' and this book explains how, from the plotting of imaginary 'great circles' on the surface of the globe, man has tackled the seemingly impossible task of dividing up the surface of a sphere into flat surfaces. By mathematical means we see how Platonic solids, the octahedron and icosahedron, are used to derive the beautiful domes made famous by Buckminster Fuller. You can make a family of cut-out models from the very simple to a faceted hemisphere which makes a very striking dome. [Originally published by Tarquin Publications, ISBN 0906212928.]


Domes of invention. Here are jpg photos, one of Sarah's cabin (left), the others of my new office (unfinished in the snow and near-complete). The miniature dome in right foreground is actually a little wooden model Gerry built to guide him during construction of the main dome. But Jack the Cat now uses it as sleeping quarters on hot summer days. Yes, it gets really hot in Quebec in summer -- and really cold in winter. A range of about +30 to -30 degrees C.

Gerry Toomey, Quebec, Canada ( Friday 7/2/03
Just a quick note so say how much I enjoyed your little book, Geodesic Domes. If it's intended for children, then I guess I'm a big kid. Anways, the book has inspired me to build three small geodesic domes here in Quebec, Canada. Basically, I just wanted to tell you how helpful your book as I made the difficult transition from paper cutouts to woodframe structures. Building things you can walk around in is, at least for me, certainly more fun than paper and scissors. But you need a good starting point, like Geodesic Domes, for direction and inspiration.
My most recent project, which includes a small loft, will become my office next summer. I still have wiring and insulation to install, as well as the exterior cedar cladding to nail on. The building (a 3-frequency rendition of the octahedron) is about 20 square meters, with a small annex still to be erected next spring. My neighbour Mary quite likes its cozy look and has jokingly threatened to move in as a squatter!
Your book was a major stimulus for me to re-learn and go beyond my high school trigonometry and apply it to small geodesic buildings -- with the help of a compound miter saw and a scientific calculator, of course. I even figured out some of the required formulas after wracking my brain to remember algebra. It's amazing what dusty old ideas still lurk in the brain of an aging baby-boomer!
My step-daughter Sarah has also benefitted from all this. She has her own little geodesic cabin now in which to camp out with friends at our lakeside property during the summer. This wooden building is far more bear-resistant than a nylon or canvas tent!
Best regards and may you continue to be inspired with both amusing and provocative ideas, Gerry
P.S. For several years I've hoarded a copy of your "Geodesic Domes", on loan from a good friend of mine. Last month I visited the Eden Project in Cornwall and there in the bookstore I found the latest edition/reprint. So I bought a copy and gave it to my friend, keeping the old dog-eared 1994 edition for myself.
Update: Spring, 2003: "Dear Borin, I finally installed cedar shingles on the dome's riser walls and the basswood door is in place (see third photo above). Insulation and electric wiring work are in progress. With a little luck, I'll complete the dome extension on the righthand side, about 60 sq. ft., by August. Then I can start using the building as an office. The municipal building inspector will be paying a visit shortly to check my progress. Thanks again for the mathematical and spatial inspiration! Maybe it's time for you to write Geodesic Domes II!"

It is gratifying to see that conversations about the domes book continue on the internet:-
"... Hello again,
I have received the Dome book by Van Loon and found it to be very  helpful for a neophyte like myself.  Even though my math skills are very rusty so far I have been able to figure things out.  It was a 'ah-ha moment' when I read that dome geometry is based upon the Great Circle.  Something that should have been obvious I just never put it together before.  I am sure I will be building model domes very soon. Also thanks to those that have offered their help and advice. -Bob Bailey.
-Dick Fiscbeck

Thanks Richard,
I had already found Van Loon's page that is where I saw the Gerry Toomy's domes.  Thanks anyway. I checked out the Wikipedia reference, very interesting.  Except for Monty Python and Terry Gilliam none of the names meant anything. They all came along after me.  Still I can see Van Loon has a very wide field of interest.  Perhaps because his work was influenced by Terry Gilliam is the reason I can understand it. <big smile> Thanks again, Bob Bailey"

Good dome primer.
bought the book. good primer for we neophite dome builders. good pictures, cut out models, some math. (Barnes & Noble site: 4 out of 5 stars)

The geometry of geodesic domes using cut-out models. This is classified as a children's book, but it isn't so simple. It would be suitable for teenagers but the mathematics is relevant whatever your age and it is described clearly and concisely. However, if you're looking for a book on dome architecture this is not for you. There are two models that demonstrate the ideas about the subdivision of triangles to approximate the sphere based on the octahedron and the icosahedron. Then there are three 'architectural' dome models and lastly a model of the carbon molecule bukminsterfullerene. Each model is included for a reason and there's an explanatory text to accompany each one. The book does not cover real examples of domes much (only a sketch of the Expo 67 pavilion), although the introduction briefly explains the history and reason for them. It is important to understand that this is not a book about dome architecture: it covers the math behind the concept and explains it using cut-out models. (Alan Chuter from Madrid, Spain)

The children's book Geodesic Domes by Borin van Loon has the simplest explanation of geodesic dome geometry and terminology I have ever seen, plus it has several paper cut-out models of many varieties of geodesic structures including the "Bucky Ball" (which is not a true geodesic, but which is famous since the early 1990's because of the carbon molecule, buckminsterfullerine). (Dr. Michael J. Gourlay -

Geodesic Basics. The book provides basic insights into geodesic design of higher frequency structures from the fundamental icosehdral blocks. Cut out patterns provide some hands on builds. Worth the money. Rating: 4 (

Childrens book with cutout domes. Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It is not an architectural treatise, it's a children's book with cutouts that let you make a paper model. If you want a good book on the architecture of Geodesic Domes, buy a biography of Buckminster Fuller. Rating: 1 (Borin says: Only one? I'm not sure that a biography of Fuller - interesting though that might be - would really tell you much about the technicalities of geodesy and dome structure.)

For ages 12 and up. Each of the models in this book is both beautiful and interesting. It was Buckminster Fuller who pioneered this type of building. The book explains the underlying theory that enables the construction of light and strong buildings with no internal support. The US exhibit at the Montreal World's Fair in 1967 and my children's jungle gym in the backyard are two examples. For ages 12 and up. (

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Here's to the Double Helix
without which none of us
would be here.