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wednesday

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Who’s Lewis without Clark? Sacco without Vanzetti? Moët sans Chandon? These questions only hint at the existential crisis posed by Matt Ridley’s latest book, Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code, which dares to consider the British half of the duo that discovered the structure of DNA without regard to his American collaborator, James D. Watson. A Brit himself, Ridley is a decorated vet in pop genetics writing, having penned such tomes as Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human and Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Now, as a part of HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives” series, he turns to the life of his countryman, whose great insight was helping to conjure a couple of other famous duos: adenine and thymine, cytosine and guanine—the “base pairs” that constitute genetic code. Later in life, Crick all but gave up on genetics and turned to another mysterious field: neurobiology. But by the time he died, in 2004, he hadn’t been able to unlock the brain the way he had unlocked genes 50 years before. Ridley speaks and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Mike DeBonis)