Cover photograph
Jan Freeston
Voices from Oxford

This new book is much more than a collection of key papers, valuable though that may be. It is also an exciting autobiographical account of the 50 year ‘journey’ towards writing The Music of Life. The controversies and milestones are captured in graphic stories of the experiments, theories, debates and discussions that led both to the creation of the virtual heart and the IUPS Physiome Project. The papers selected are all key steps in that process. The stories also describe the philosophical development that led Denis Noble from a 20th century towards a 21st century view of biology. The two are poles apart. Not because they describe different science but because the science is interpreted completely differently.

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Publisher’s description

This is a scientific and philosophical autobiography written around a collection of Denis Noble’s most significant papers. It traces a remarkable journey from naïve reductionism to a rigorous systems approach to living systems. It is rigorous because Denis Noble was one of the first biologists to construct computer models of cells and organs of the body. His theoretical work is entirely mathematically based, with no room for ambiguity. Far from the denigration of the systems approach as holistic ‘hand-waving’, his work is now regarded by pharmaceutical companies and regulators as the gold standard of modelling in the development of new medication.

Systems Biology is an idea in search of a definition. This book explains why this is true: it is an approach rather than a subject. Denis Noble’s work is one of the clearest examples of the systems approach in practice since it reveals the nature of some of the forms of downward causation in multilevel analysis. The story will delight readers who like to see how scientific controversy is resolved, since many of the developments described in each chapter were highly controversial when they occurred.