The facts of photosynthesis – an accessible resource

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Photosynthesis: a comprehensive treatise, 2nd edn

Edited by A. S. Raghavendra. xviii + 376 pages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000. £29.95 (US$47.95) p/b. ISBN 0 51 78444 1

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Photosynthesis research is the one area of plant science that wins Nobel prizes. Having received the attention of some of the biggest brains, and deepest pockets, the subject has matured over the course of the last century to the stage where its fundamental processes can be taken out of the hands of biologists and left to the chemists and quantum physicists. This is good news for students and teachers because it means that the essentials of the subject do not change from week to week and the Z scheme or the Calvin-Benson cycle are descriptions of light and dark reactions as accurate today as they were a generation ago. It also means that textbooks dealing with the major principles of photosynthesis do not go out of style quite as quickly as those dealing with other aspects of plant biology.

Thus it stands with Photosynthesis, the corrected paperback edition of a book first published in 1998. The literature cited includes a few 1998 papers and one or two from 1999, but essentially it represents a view of the field in the mid-nineties. Even so, I would guess that it has a few more years of usefulness left and is a handy source of the facts of photosynthesis presented at a level accessible to both researchers and advanced students.

In 26 chapters the 44 authors, drawn from nine countries in Europe, North America and Australasia, cover the whole scope of the subject from cell and molecular biology to agronomy, evolution and biotechnological applications. The editor has made a good job of blending multiauthor and multidisciplinary contributions into a consistent style. This generously and, for the most part, clearly illustrated book lives up to its subtitle: it is indeed a comprehensive treatise on the process that defines plants and sustains the whole of life on earth.

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