"IN HIS MIND'S EYE, IT WAS ALMOST AS IF HE HAD SEEN DNA": FIRST EDITION OF SCHRODINGER'S PROFOUNDLY INFLUENTIAL WHAT IS LIFE?
SCHRODINGER, Erwin. What is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell. Cambridge: University Press, 1944. Small octavo (5 by 7-1/2 inches), original green cloth, original dust jacket. $2800.
First edition of Schrödinger's physical, biological and philosophical treatise on life—"arguably one of the most influential in the 20th century"—with three pages of photographic plates, one color plate, and numerous in-text illustrations, in original dust jacket.
Schrödinger "had what Kilmster called 'a second flowering of his genius' beginning about 1935. At Dublin he wrote What Is Life?, in which he provided a possible explanation of cellular function according to the laws of thermodynamics" (Simmons, Scientific 100:18). "He imagined a chemical with multiple chemical bonds stretching out along the length of the 'chromosome fiber'… In his mind's eye, it was almost as if he had seen DNA" (Mukherjee, Gene, 312). "He viewed the genes as controlling the entropy, or disorder, which builds up in any system, and took the view that the basis of life could therefore be fully understood through its chemical and physical properties… it was an influence upon both Crick and Watson, and thus an intellectual component in the discovery of the function of the DNA molecule" (Simmons). Schrödinger "polarized" Watson toward mastering the mystery of DNA, gave Crick the sense that "great things [in biology] were just around the corner," and rekindled an interest in physics Wilson lost after he saw the devastation of the atom bomb (Cairns, 239; 20th-Century Sciences, 232; Wilkins, Nobel Lecture). This work "represents a powerful attempt to comprehend some of the genuine mysteries of life" and is "arguably one of the most influential in the 20th century" (Simmons). Based on a series of lectures delivered by him in February 1943 at Trinity College, Dublin.
Only two short closed tears to edge of dust jacket, spine a bit toned. An exceptionally nice copy.