Venki Ramakrishnan – Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome
Ramakrishnan won the 2009 chemistry Nobel for figuring out the structure of ribosomes. DNA and RNA contain instructions for protein molecules; ribosomes use that information for actual protein assembly. Ribosomes are an organelle that exists in every cell. There are more than a trillion ribosomes in your body right now; they are not rare. But getting a handle on their structure and how they go about their work was a longstanding mystery. It took Tamakrishnan more than two decades to suss out. Along the way he pioneered the use of x-ray microscopy and crystallography. Some of the science went over my head, but this career autobiography still offers plenty for a layman. As I so often find with these sorts of books, it unintentionally confirms the arguments in the economist Gordon Tullock’s 1966 book The Organization of Inquiry (free PDF), a public choice analysis of professional scientific behavior.