is Van Loon's versatility and imagination as an
illustrator which makes DNA for Beginners so entertaining and
(Review: The Harvard
<Paperback cover <Hardback (reduced in size) <French edition
graphic guide to the molecule that shook the world Written by Israel
Rosenfield & Edward Ziff, llustrated / designed by Borin Van Loon.
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).]
[Original edition: Writers & Readers Publishing
Inc., USA 1983;
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
A top recommendation for any general
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
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
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
(1.12.1983) 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 |
>DNA for Beginners is simply the
best introduction to genetics you
can buy. Sylvester and Klotz write in The Gene Age that
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
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
'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
>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
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
throughout this site belongs to Borin Van Loon