Virtual Event: Nick Lane


The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death

in conversation with LOGAN MCCARTY


September 30, 2022
12:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry NICK LANE for a discussion of his new book Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death. He will be joined in conversation by LOGAN MCCARTY, Assistant Dean of Science Undergraduate Education at Harvard University.

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About Transformer

What brings the Earth to life, and our own lives to an end?

For decades, biology has been dominated by the study of genetic information. Information is important, but it is only part of what makes us alive. Our inheritance also includes our living metabolic network, a flame passed from generation to generation, right back to the origin of life. In Transformer, biochemist Nick Lane reveals a scientific renaissance that is hiding in plain sight ―how the same simple chemistry gives rise to life and causes our demise.

Lane is among the vanguard of researchers asking why the Krebs cycle, the “perfect circle” at the heart of metabolism, remains so elusive more than eighty years after its discovery. Transformer is Lane’s voyage, as a biochemist, to find the inner meaning of the Krebs cycle―and its reverse―why it is still spinning at the heart of life and death today.

Lane reveals the beautiful, violent world within our cells, where hydrogen atoms are stripped from the carbon skeletons of food and fed to the ravenous beast of oxygen. Yet this same cycle, spinning in reverse, also created the chemical building blocks that enabled the emergence of life on our planet. Now it does both. How can the same pathway create and destroy? What might our study of the Krebs cycle teach us about the mysteries of aging and the hardest problem of all, consciousness?

Transformer unites the story of our planet with the story of our cells―what makes us the way we are, and how it connects us to the origin of life. Enlivened by Lane’s talent for distilling and humanizing complex research, Transformer offers an essential read for anyone fascinated by biology’s great mysteries. Life is at root a chemical phenomenon: this is its deep logic.

Praise for Transformer

"A thrilling tour of the remarkable stories behind the discoveries of some of life’s key metabolic pathways and mechanisms. [Lane] lays bare the human side of science… The book brings to life the chemistry that brings us to life. " ―Joseph Moran, Science

"Transformer is a complex yet accessible, illuminating, and thrilling exploration of the vitality and elemental mysteries of our existence." ―George Kendall, Booklist

"In this compulsively readable book, Lane takes us on a riveting journey, ranging from the flow of energy to new ways of understanding cancer." ―Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

Logan McCarty
Logan McCarty

Logan McCarty

Dr. Logan McCarty is Asst. Dean of Science Undergraduate Education, Lecturer on Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Lecturer on Physics at Harvard University. He received undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry from Harvard, where he studied contact electrification of organic polymers (what most people would call “static electricity”). He now directs Harvard’s Science Education Research Lab, which seeks to improve teaching and learning in undergraduate science education. He has taught organic chemistry at Harvard for over 25 years, and also teaches physical chemistry, physics, and applied mathematics. With colleagues from the biology and physics departments, Dr. McCarty created and co-teaches a Harvard General Education course entitled, “What is Life? From Quarks to Consciousness.”

Nick Lane
Nick Lane

Nick Lane

Dr. Nick Lane is Professor of Evolutionary Biochemistry at University College London and Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution. His research is about how energy flow has shaped evolution from the origin of life to the emergence of complex traits such as sex and death. Prof. Lane has published more than 100 papers in top journals including Science, Nature and PNAS. He is best known for his five books on evolution including most recently Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death.

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

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