The Code Breaker - Walter Isaacson

The Code Breaker

By Walter Isaacson

  • Release Date: 2021-03-09
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 4.5
From 914 Ratings


A Best Book of 2021 by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Time, and The Washington Post

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a “compelling” (The Washington Post) account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is an “enthralling detective story” (Oprah Daily) that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.


  • enjoyable read

    By CreekNine
    really liked how the story covered both the technical and personal challenges. thankfully we have smart scientists working on such important issues to help with diseases and handicaps.
  • If only I was trained in biology.

    By MaryBKAZ
    If you are not trained in biology you may find this book too challenging as I did. I feel those who are , will be spellbound by it. I am really interested in the subject. A lot was over my head. I just wish there was a version for those folks not schooled in this subject.
  • Could not put it down.

    By Chekpeds
    I’d I had read this book when I was 14, I would have studied science. Just brilliant
  • Review

    By redokt
    An exciting book about status of CRISPER and the battle with COVID-19
  • The Things You Don’t Know

    By diwilli
    Slow read but so worth it. I learned so much! Thanks to all participants for taking the time to give us lay people a better understanding of scientific discovery and application. I am definitely more informed and happy to be so.
  • Disappointed

    By gftuibcftyuj
    Very disappointing. I thought some like Doudna could rise above the petty “victim” politics, she doesn’t need it, she’s an accomplished scientist, but stick to your knitting! Science!! When her and Isaacson add their own pedestrian political views, they leave their area of expertise and are no longer worthy of my attention or money. Wasted my money
  • The Code Breaker

    By Mrs. Ferocious
    Very disappointed. It started well, and there was so much scope for the science, but it devolved into a litany of petty rivalries and slights. I started the book with a high opinion of Jennifer Doudna; the book diminished that. The author appears to hunt around for as many - often very slight - detractors, and then proceeds to paint Doudna as an Angel. It felt like a case of The Lady Doth Protest Too Much. Pity; we need more women to look up to.
  • Superb!!

    By Dan249333
    Excéllent survey of the promise of CRISPR gene editing technology which has a real potential to precisely identify and modify viruses such as the Delta and Omicron strains. It’s superb report by ing'
  • The Power of Women

    By Bob Magnant
    As I have grown older, I have seen the focus on my family evolve, as my girls became women and mothers and our family thoughts moved to the future. I am equally fascinated with what has changed globally over the past 35 years and how we have all grown together. Ours has become a brave new world as described by Walter Isaacson's wonderful new book, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race (2021). This is the story of a brilliant, young woman, Dr. Jeniffer Doudna, who received the 2020 Nobel prize for advances in CRISPR genetic editing… and also efforts of others that go back 60 years with the discovery of DNA and the work of Rosalind Franklin and James Watson. These changes are dramatic for it is now possible to modify and change the human offspring process as has never been possible before. This is a complex story told by the gifted biographer, who has put these world-changing events into a grand perspective. It’s the story of the greater inclusion and the empowerment of women in today’s society in a future that they helped make possible. I celebrate their successes and their accomplishments; may their wisdom proliferate and their vision make the future better for us all. Every child should learn of these realities that Dr. Doudna successfully researched and brought into the future; she has raised questions with the discovery and development of CRISPR editing that are quite wonderful. Since the pace of learning varies with age, I have also identified some earlier writings that will also introduce the foundations of these realities that are related to benefit a range of readers. Here is James Watson’s seminal work on DNA discovery, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (1968), that Jeniffer read as a sixth grader when she first thought about women being scientists. Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (2017), is Doudna’s personal account of the biotechnology that she helped to establish as it was growing at a pace that she had never imagined. I am excited for a future that we will all share with intelligent leaders in a compassionate world with the increased participation of strong and loving women. ——————————— I have written books, policy studies, short stories, technical articles and love poems. Once a New England native, I currently live in Florida between the beach at Hobe Sound and the Loxahatchee River. I am retired, I’ve traveled twice around the world and I’m ready to do it again. I love Judy, the kids, the grandkids and the people I have met along the way. I use an iMac Retina, an iPad Air, an iPhone Xr and the Internet. I have been writing Apple Books since 2017 for young readers with the idea of promoting reading and writing and encouraging storytelling for greater understanding and dialogue between generations. My Apple Books are free downloads and they need to be read so please share them. From The Future is at Your Fingertips to The Last Transition…, Fingertips Books are filled with hundreds of hyperlinks that broaden each story’s value. Enjoy! Bob Magnant
  • Calling all curiosity seekers!

    By J.McNaughty
    Fascinating true story of the mysteries of our biological world and those who discoveries that can help save humanity from itself. Dr. Doudna and her team should be rolled out to explain this critical, relevant research to the public. Perhaps the fears for the current vaccinations might be eased? A must read for all those interested in the curiosity seekers who will shape, alter and heal human biology. Thought provoking and engrossing, cover to cover!