Clone

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Overview

The birth of Dolly — the world's first clone — placed in our hands the secret of creation. Few discoveries have so altered our notion of what it means to be human, or presented such a Gordian knot of ethical, spiritual, and scientific questions. Noted science journalist Gina Kolata broke the news nationally in The New York Times and was the first reporter to speak with Dr. Ian Wilmut, the embryologist who cloned Dolly. Now Kolata reveals the story behind Dolly, interweaving the social and cultural tales of our fear and fascination with cloning, reaching back nearly a century, with the riveting scientific accountof how a clone came to be and the mind-boggling questions Dolly presents for our future.

Clone is a compelling blend of scientific suspense, dreams dashed, and frauds exposed, with provocative philosophical questions and an astute assessment of why Dolly's birth was only possible now. Like The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Lucy, and Chaos, this book gives us a window on history in the making, and an understanding of its profound effect on our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Etelka Lehoczky

When the cloning of Dolly the lamb was announced last February, it loosed a babble of wildly uninformed debate. The thousand-dollar question was whether humans could be cloned, and everyone who could find an interested talk-show host had an opinion on whether they should be.

Gina Kolata's Clone is the book we might have wished all those overnight experts had for homework. Kolata traces the history of cloning from the first manipulations of fertilized eggs in the early part of the century to the corporate-funded livestock breeding projects that eventually produced Dolly. Designed for the reader who possesses more interest than expertise, her tale is a comfortable blend of distilled scientific explanations, gossipy anecdotes and philosophical head scratching.

Kolata, a science reporter for the New York Times and author of several books, is an expert at mixing this brew. She's got the popular-science writer's knack of hinting at all sorts of fascinating complexities without belittling the average reader. Just when a minute discussion of "blastocysts" and "appended blebs" has you flailing, she'll toss in a description of the backstage politicking at Nature magazine or the "shock of light brown hair flopping over" the brow of "near-mythical" scientist Steen Willadsen.

Her tale of the history of cloning is equally reassuring. She sketches a compelling picture of the myopic world of modern science, where researchers labor over absurdly circumscribed areas of study and the direction of advancement is determined not by scientists' priorities, but by where the money is. Ian Wilmut, the man who cloned Dolly, was himself funded by a company that wanted to breed animals to produce drugs inside their bodies -- he calls them "living drug factories." When Kolata asks him about the implications of Dolly's creation, he simply says, "This is my work. It has always been my work, and it doesn't have anything to do with creating copies of human beings."

Wilmut and his fellows' blinkered outlook may be due to science's long-standing discomfort with ethical concerns. Kolata notes that the field of scientific ethics didn't even emerge until the late '60s, and then it was driven by public outcry over scandals like the Tuskegee experiments, in which syphilitic black men were monitored without being treated. Scientists themselves distrusted and disdained ethics for years. One of Kolata's interviewees, a founder of the Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences, remembers having "no budget, no endowment. [The institute] literally existed hand-to-mouth."

The upshot of all this is the implication that no one is more qualified to weigh the ethics of cloning than the Clone reader himself. Kolata feeds this in her concluding chapter, "The Path Ahead," where she outlines several conceivable developments from Wilmut's breakthrough and sketches the ethical dimensions of each. Here, again, the reader's comfort is paramount; the dilemmas discussed are strictly of the "My, how interesting!" variety. We're told that cloning could help families desperate to have children, for example, and several philosophers weigh in on the humanity of cloned fetuses. But Kolata never asks whether it's ethical to invest in state-of-the-art fertility tricks when a global population crisis looms.

And that, finally, is the secret of cloning's fascination: It lets us exult in a godlike freedom from consequence. Separated by its newness from the realm of the practical, it gives us a golden opportunity to indulge our fear of, and titillation at, science itself. Kolata's democratic attempt to empower the lay reader unintentionally fosters such fantasies. But fortunately, there's nothing wrong with dreaming. -- Salon

Library Journal
In this readable history of cloning, New York Times science writer Kolata focuses on the controversial aspects of the issue. An indispensable work for high school, public, and college libraries. (LJ 11/15/97) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688166342
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/6/1999
  • Pages: 292
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Gina Kolata is an award-winning senior writer for the New York Times. The winner of numerous writing awards, she has authored several books, including the bestselling Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It. Her latest book is Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting.

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Read an Excerpt

Many people wonder if this is a miracle for which we can
thank God, or an ominous new way to play God ourselves.
— Nancy Duff
Princeton Theological Seminary

On a soft summer night, July 5, 1996, at 5:00 P.M., the most famous lamb in history entered the world, head and forelegs first. She was born in a shed, just down the road from the Roslin Institute in Roslin, Scotland, where she was created. And yet her creator, Ian Wilmut, a quiet, balding fifty-two-year-old embryologist, does not remember where he was when he heard that the lamb, named Dolly, was born. He does not even recall getting a telephone call from John Bracken, a scientist who had monitored the pregnancy of the sheep that gave birth to Dolly, saying that Dolly was alive and healthy and weighed 6.6 kilograms, or 14.5 pounds.

It was a moment of remarkable insouciance. No one broke open champagne. No one took pictures. Only a few staff members from the institute and a local veterinarian who attended the birth were present. Yet Dolly, a fluffy creature with grayish-white fleece and a snow-white face, who looked for all the world like hundreds of other lambs that dot the rolling hills of Scotland, was soon to change the world.

When the time comes to write the history of our age, this quiet birth, the creation of this little lamb, will stand out. The events that change history are few and unpredictable. In the twentieth century, there was the discovery of quantum theory, the revolutionary finding by physicists that the normal rules of the visible world do not apply in the realm of the atom. There was Einstein's theory of general relativity, saying that space and time can be warped. There was thesplitting of the atom, with its promise of good and evil. There was the often-overlooked theorem of mathematician Kurt Godel, which said that there are truths that are unknowable, theorems that can be neither proved nor disproved. There was the development of computers that transformed Western society.

In biology and medicine, there was the discovery of penicillin in the 1940s, and there was James Watson and Francis Crick's announcement, in 1953, that they had found the structure of DNA, the genetic blueprint. There was the conquest of smallpox that wiped the ancient scourge from the face of the earth, and the discovery of a vaccine that could prevent the tragedy of polio. In the 1980s, there was the onslaught of AIDS, which taught us that plagues can afflict us still.

In politics, there were the world wars, the rise and fall of communism, and the Great Depression. There is the economic rise of Asia in the latter part of the century, and the ever-shifting balance of the world's powers.

But events that alter our very notion of what it means to be human are few and scattered over the centuries. The birth of Dolly is one of them. "Analogies to Copernicus, to Darwin, to Freud, are appropriate," said Alan Weisbard, a professor of law and medical ethics at the University of Wisconsin. The world is a different place now that she is born.

Dolly is a clone. She was created not out of the union of a sperm and an egg but out of the genetic material from an udder cell of a six-year-old sheep. Wilmut fused the udder cell with an egg from another sheep, after first removing all genetic material from the egg. The udder cell's genes took up residence in the egg and directed it to grow and develop. The result was Dolly, the identical twin of the original sheep that provided the udder cells, but an identical twin born six years later.

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Table of Contents

1 A Clone is Born 1
2 Breaking the News 22
3 Natural Philosophies 42
4 Imagining Clones 70
5 The Sullying of Science 93
6 Three Cloned Mice 120
7 Breaking the Laws of Nature 157
8 The Road to Dolly 185
9 Taken by Surppise 209
10 The Path Ahead 228
Notes 249
Index 261
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2000

    A Tale of Science & Myth on the 'reod to Dolly'

    Looking for an accessible guide to cloning together with sex, scandal, a putative hoax, a fraud claim, counterclaims, industrial secrets and a cast of maverick scientists and myths that makes for a greatly entertaining true story ? To find a single book which has the potential to affect one's ideas and thoughts as to what it means to be human is a rarity, but some readers might be so affected by this work. Thematically weaving between the key historical developments leading to claims for the first cloning success using adult tissue and discussions of the moral ethics of whether and why such research be conducted, Kolata's account of the making of `Dolly' the sheep reminded me of Watson's `The Double helix'. Not only do we read here about the manipulation of genetic material outside the realms of human replication and fertility, we are continually provoked with the wider issues relating to food production processess, the social responsibilies of the research scientist, and the role of science journalism in informing public opinion.We are also exposed to the less attractive side of running the day-to-day life of the research laboratory - the struggle with grant competition; peer pressure, review and publication demands; conference attendance and institutional sponsor politics. Kolata provides all of this in a very well written and researched book including frank (and seemingly) honest biographies of the leading players in the `road to Dolly'. The story as presented here covers a period of just over one hundred years following Weismann's discovery of the `loss of information' with subsequent cellular differentiations of dividing tissue. Within twenty years or so the role of the cell nucleus had been determined, and by 1938, Spemann's `Embryonic Development and Induction' proposed the very nuclear transplant experiment that was to succeed some 60 years later. The first successful accounts of this technique involved the use of the embryonic frog tissue in the 1950s by Briggs & King, but the older, more differentiated cell' nuclei proved harder to handle and maintain. In the early 1960s, Gurdon succeeds with the transfer of what were thought to be adult, fully differentiated cells taken from amphibian intestines. At about the same time as these developments were unfolding, the first symposia to address the possibility of cloning and its implications for ethics had taken place. The end of the 1960s had seen the advent of gene isolation (though curiously little is said about the discovery of DNA itself and the significance of the newly founded growth area of molecular biology) and within the next ten years we had moved from the in vitro fertilisation of mice to Louise Brown, born in 1978. That same year saw the publication of a non-fiction book claiming that the real-life `rich, eccentric Max' has himself cloned with the assistance of a World renown scientist known by the pseudonym `Darwin' with the assistance of a seventeen year old virgin called `sparrow', who gives birth to a healthy baby boy. I would recommend reading Kolata for her retelling of the Rorvik (1978) story if for no other reason. The following year saw Illmensee claim to have cloned the first mice using the nucleus of embryonic stem cells and, again, we are both entertained and informed by Kolata's telling of this most remarkable tale of intrigue and collegiate suspicion of happenings in the laboratory. It was not until the 1980s` and 90s that successful sheep, cow and eventually monkey cloning was to be completed (all still using embryonic nuclear material transfer) at least suggesting that there was no in principle reason to believe adult cloning to be beyond possibility. However, very few scientists apparently held this latter belief - and these few were not encouraged to pursue their ideas. Now suitably brought up to speed with our history of embryology, experimental biology techniques and the sweat involved in conducting seemingly unglamorous basic laboratory sc

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

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