As an assist to his students back in 1960, microbiologist Donald Nicholson sketched out a big chart of metabolic pathways; he thought it would help them to have it pinned up on a wall for ready reference.

Nicholson didn’t realize it at the time, but he was creating the first draft of what would eventually become an international best-seller— the most popular published work ever in biochemistry.

The casually contrived wall chart—later whipped into formal presentability and gussied up with appropriate graphic support—was to become the Metabolic Pathways Chart. So far, it has run through 16 editions, selling some 800,000 copies, and a 17th edition has just been issued.

Making Sense

Nicholson, now retired from his post as senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Leeds in northern England, recalls, “I produced the first chart back in 1960 to help students make biological sense of biochemical pathways and enzymes,...

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