Not in my body, thank you

Philip Kitcher

  • Investigations by Stuart Kauffman
    Oxford, 287 pp, £18.99, March 2001, ISBN 0 19 512104 X

In February 1943, Erwin Schrödinger delivered a series of three lectures in Dublin. A year later, they were published as a book, under the title What Is Life?, so ensuring that Schrödinger’s ideas reached an audience far larger than the four hundred – a number, he wryly notes, which ‘did not substantially dwindle’ over the three lectures – who originally heard him. Together with Max Delbrück, another physicist, Schrödinger subsequently inspired a postwar generation of scientists to think of biology as a place where exciting physical work might be done. The final chapter of What Is Life? suggests that the problem of understanding biological organisation and order might lead to the uncovering of new physical principles. As we investigate the structure of matter, Schrödinger wrote, ‘we must be prepared to find a new type of physical law prevailing in it.’

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