Code-cracking odyssey makes Royal Society shortlist


An acclaimed book by a University of Manchester zoologist on the DNA revolution has made the shortlist for the UK’s top science book prize.

Professor Matthew Cobb’s book charting the discovery and cracking of the genetic code will take on five others to claim the Royal Society Winton Prize.

In Life's Greatest Secret: The Story of the Race to Crack the Genetic Code, published by Profile Books, Professor Cobb describes how some of the twentieth-century's greatest minds made one of science’s greatest breakthroughs.

Cobb's book traces how in the 1940s and 50s, scientists first realised there was a genetic code, and then set about cracking it.

A final section looks to the future and explores the advances genetic technology may enable us to make, as well as examining the potential dangers.

The Royal Society Winton Prize celebrates outstanding popular science books from around the world and is open to authors of science books written for a non-specialist audience.

The judges this year include mathematician and Royal Society Fellow Ian Stewart, award-winning author Sarah Waters, Channel 4 anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy and science journalist Dr Adam Rutherford.

The book has been receive rave reviews in the press: the Observer describing it as 'authoritative... thrilling.. a first-class read', and the Guardian called it as a "masterly account.. a delight".

The Sunday Times described it as "a compelling fusion of science, history and biography". Professor Brian Cox called it 'Bloody brilliant!'

The winner will crowned at a ceremony on 24 September, and will receive a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of other five shortlisted authors.

They are:
•    The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam
•    Alex Through the Looking-Glass: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life by Alex Bellos
•    Smashing Physics: Inside the World’s Biggest Experiment by Jon Butterworth
•    Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe Mcfadden and Professor Jim Al-Khalili
•    Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet we Made by Gaia Vince

Professor Cobb said: “I’m delighted and honoured that Life's Greatest Secret has made it onto the shortlist of this prestigious prize. I hope that it will inform and inspire readers, in particular school and university students.”

Notes for editors

Life's Greatest Secret is published by Profile Books

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