Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA: And Other Masterminds from the Frontiers of Biotech

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Combining myth, biography,
and wit — a highly original depiction of cutting-edge science — told through the scientists who are rewriting life on earth

While the future of human existence is literally being forged by today's genetic scientists and biotechnology leaders, the media, policymakers, ethicists, and fellow scientists alike have not been adequately communicating the tremendous potential that is contained in these individuals' work. With...

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Overview

Combining myth, biography,
and wit — a highly original depiction of cutting-edge science — told through the scientists who are rewriting life on earth

While the future of human existence is literally being forged by today's genetic scientists and biotechnology leaders, the media, policymakers, ethicists, and fellow scientists alike have not been adequately communicating the tremendous potential that is contained in these individuals' work. With the public only vaguely aware of what is really happening, a new coterie of geniuses, tinkerers, tycoons, and genetic soothsayers are — for better or worse — about to alter life on earth forever.

Now award-winning journalist David Ewing Duncan has written an insightful narrative about science and personality, delving into stem cell research, cloning, bioengineering, extending life span, and genetics by telling the stories of the characters at the fulcrum of the science. Calling to mind age-old stories and myths — Prometheus, Faustus, Eve, and Frankenstein — Duncan asks the question: Can we trust these scientists?

Duncan has spent the last three years reporting on and studying these masterminds, from the co-solver of the DNA structure James Watson to a man who is creating synthetic life, Craig Venter. The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA tells their stories, revealing their quirky, fascinating, and sometimes vaguely unsettling personas as a way to understand their science and the implications of their work.

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Editorial Reviews

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Biotech masterminds are remaking our universe. Postmodern Albert Einsteins and Neils Bohrs are perfecting biotechnologies that promise life spans up to 400 years; eradication of cancer; and an end to pollution and energy shortages. But is this new coterie of geniuses and genetic tinkerers capable of second-guessing themselves? Will their feverish search for new technologies run amuck, producing bioweapons and plagues? In The Geneticist Who Played Hoops with My DNA, award-winning writer David Duncan plays basketball with a world-class Icelandic geneticist; but more significantly, he goes one-on-one with some of the best minds of our generation, examining the ideas of the scientists who are rewriting your future. An intellectual fast break.
Publishers Weekly
"Experiments are under way to create new forms of life," writes journalist Duncan, "[y]et we hardly know the scientists and others sweeping us into the new world." So this collection of biographical studies (expanding on an article in Wired magazine) aims to introduce seven of the men and women on the frontiers of biotech research. To make these "very human, and therefore flawed" scientists more representative, Duncan (Calendar) frames each portrait with the life of a mythic figure; James Watson (co-discoverer of DNA's double helix) as Zeus, for example, or Craig Venter (who founded a company to compete with the Human Genome Project on sequencing the genome) as Faustus. While the idea is intriguing, its execution is uneven-some profiles sparkle and some fall flat. The one constant is Duncan himself, whose willingness to inject himself into the story in unorthodox ways offers some of the book's highlights (submitting his own DNA for genetic testing, for example, to the geneticist with whom he played the game of basketball referred to in the title). Although his frequently voiced ambivalence about the morality of biotechnology sometimes seems cursory and contrived, his book as a whole offers a decent historical overview of the contemporary biotech landscape that will appeal to readers unfamiliar with its contours. Agent, Mel Berger. (On sale May 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060537388
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/10/2005
  • Pages: 288

Meet the Author

David Ewing Duncan is the author of five books, including the international bestseller Calendar, and writes for Wired, Discover, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is a freelance producer and correspondent for ABC's Nightline, and a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. He also writes the popular "Biotech and Creativity" column for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2003, he won the Magazine Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He lives in San Francisco, California.

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Table of Contents

Prelude : the geneticist who played hoops with my DNA 1
The language of biotech : a genetic primer 21
1 Prometheus : Douglas Melton 29
2 Eve : Cynthia Kenyon 57
3 Paul : Francis Collins 85
4 Faustus : Craig Venter 121
5 Zeus : James Watson 155
6 Puck : Sydney Brenner 179
7 Moses : Paul Berg 201
Epilogue : what if Frankenstein's monster had Einstein's brain? 231
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