Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Science

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Overview

A thoroughly engrossing memoir that recounts Beckwith's halting steps toward scientific triumphs - among them, the discovery of the genetic element that turns genes on - as well as his emergence as a world-class political activist.

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Editorial Reviews

American Scientist

In 1969, a Harvard Medical School group headed by Jon Beckwith accomplished a first in molecular biology—the isolation of a gene...When their paper appeared in Nature, they held an extraordinary press conference in which they described their work and warned of the danger that it might lead to...The press conference received international media coverage, and Beckwith found himself embarked on a double career—a continuing one in research and a new one of social activism in science. His Making Genes, Making Waves is an absorbing account of how these two strands in his life were woven into a durable braid. The prose is straightforward, and Beckwith is refreshingly frank, revealing the divagations and doubts that marked his course in research.
— Daniel J. Kevles

Nature

In this beautifully written autobiography, Beckwith...vividly describes aspects of the 'cultural revolution in science that molecular biology brought with it,' epitomized by...major public controversies about genetics in the United States from the 1960s...Beckwith has portrayed a fascinating period in the history of modern biology and of the interaction of science and society in the Western world. Thanks to him and other activists, social injustices resulting from the application of genetics are now widely discussed and, in democracies, meet with legal measures and regulation. In this book Beckwith, a committed scientist...calls for greater humility about what science can and cannot accomplish. This is a call that scientists would do well to take seriously.
— Ute Deichmann

New Scientist
Jon Beckwith in Making Genes, Making Waves reminds us that he first warned about the social impact of genetic engineering back in 1969. His autobiography shows what hard work it is to combine science and politics, to keep different networks of interests alive.
The Nation

Making Genes, Making Waves consists of a generally chronological series of vignettes detailing Beckwith's role in raising the consciousness of the genetics community and the public ("making waves") interspersed with brief descriptions of his laboratory research problems at various times ("making genes"). The prose is crisp, the episodes engaging and, as a heuristic of a successful modern American scientist with a social conscience, the book is probably without peer.
— Jonathan Marks

Times Higher Education Supplement

This autobiography charts [Beckwith's] journey through both aspects of his life in the second half of the 20th century: the research of his professional career, and his personal crusade to inform society of biological developments and involve us all in deciding how the new knowledge should be applied. Since he has made a significant contribution in both areas, the book is a fascinating read. He provides a frank but kindly description of his collaborators and other researchers, and an insightful account of science as practiced in several very different laboratories...Society is very much the better for the efforts of those such as Beckwith who clearly enjoy the challenge of describing complex issues to non-specialists and participating in debates as to how new knowledge should be used.
— Ian Wilmut

International Microbiology

Making Genes, Making Waves is a compelling history of the controversies in genetics over the last half century.
— Carmen Chica

David Baltimore
[This is] a summation of Stephen Jay Gould's life work...
Troy Duster
T]here is no doubt that this is a profound and major contribution to evolutionary theory...
Anne Fausto-Sterling
By literary standards The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is unique...
Neil A. Holtzman
Hadot brings all his concerns together in a small volume of extraordinary erudition ...[t]he summa of a distinguished career.
Philip Kitcher
[A] compelling distillation in which we learn three primary things about William James.
Sheldon Krimsky
[A] small but very stimulating book.
Jonathan Marks
Making Genes, Making Waves consists of a generally chronological series of vignettes detailing Beckwith's role in raising the consciousness of the genetics community and the public ("making waves") interspersed with brief descriptions of his laboratory research problems at various times ("making genes"). The prose is crisp, the episodes engaging and, as a heuristic of a successful modern American scientist with a social conscience, the book is probably without peer.
Prof. Benno Müller-Hill
[A] thoughtfully constructed book that brings light to several aspects of tenure and related issues...
Dorothy Nelkin
Cuban's book is a must-read for politicians, parents, school administrators, teachers, technophiles and technophobes.
François Jacob
[Cuban] shows that most investments in computers in the schools provide very poor returns...
American Scientist - Daniel J. Kevles
In 1969, a Harvard Medical School group headed by Jon Beckwith accomplished a first in molecular biology--the isolation of a gene...When their paper appeared in Nature, they held an extraordinary press conference in which they described their work and warned of the danger that it might lead to...The press conference received international media coverage, and Beckwith found himself embarked on a double career--a continuing one in research and a new one of social activism in science. His Making Genes, Making Waves is an absorbing account of how these two strands in his life were woven into a durable braid. The prose is straightforward, and Beckwith is refreshingly frank, revealing the divagations and doubts that marked his course in research.
Nature - Ute Deichmann
In this beautifully written autobiography, Beckwith...vividly describes aspects of the 'cultural revolution in science that molecular biology brought with it,' epitomized by...major public controversies about genetics in the United States from the 1960s...Beckwith has portrayed a fascinating period in the history of modern biology and of the interaction of science and society in the Western world. Thanks to him and other activists, social injustices resulting from the application of genetics are now widely discussed and, in democracies, meet with legal measures and regulation. In this book Beckwith, a committed scientist...calls for greater humility about what science can and cannot accomplish. This is a call that scientists would do well to take seriously.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Ian Wilmut
This autobiography charts [Beckwith's] journey through both aspects of his life in the second half of the 20th century: the research of his professional career, and his personal crusade to inform society of biological developments and involve us all in deciding how the new knowledge should be applied. Since he has made a significant contribution in both areas, the book is a fascinating read. He provides a frank but kindly description of his collaborators and other researchers, and an insightful account of science as practiced in several very different laboratories...Society is very much the better for the efforts of those such as Beckwith who clearly enjoy the challenge of describing complex issues to non-specialists and participating in debates as to how new knowledge should be used.
International Microbiology - Carmen Chica
Making Genes, Making Waves is a compelling history of the controversies in genetics over the last half century.
Nature
In this beautifully written autobiography, Beckwith...vividly describes aspects of the 'cultural revolution in science that molecular biology brought with it,' epitomized by...major public controversies about genetics in the United States from the 1960s...Beckwith has portrayed a fascinating period in the history of modern biology and of the interaction of science and society in the Western world. Thanks to him and other activists, social injustices resulting from the application of genetics are now widely discussed and, in democracies, meet with legal measures and regulation. In this book Beckwith, a committed scientist...calls for greater humility about what science can and cannot accomplish. This is a call that scientists would do well to take seriously.
— Ute Deichmann
The Nation
Making Genes, Making Waves consists of a generally chronological series of vignettes detailing Beckwith's role in raising the consciousness of the genetics community and the public ("making waves") interspersed with brief descriptions of his laboratory research problems at various times ("making genes"). The prose is crisp, the episodes engaging and, as a heuristic of a successful modern American scientist with a social conscience, the book is probably without peer.
— Jonathan Marks
American Scientist
In 1969, a Harvard Medical School group headed by Jon Beckwith accomplished a first in molecular biology--the isolation of a gene...When their paper appeared in Nature, they held an extraordinary press conference in which they described their work and warned of the danger that it might lead to...The press conference received international media coverage, and Beckwith found himself embarked on a double career--a continuing one in research and a new one of social activism in science. His Making Genes, Making Waves is an absorbing account of how these two strands in his life were woven into a durable braid. The prose is straightforward, and Beckwith is refreshingly frank, revealing the divagations and doubts that marked his course in research.
— Daniel J. Kevles
Times Higher Education Supplement
This autobiography charts [Beckwith's] journey through both aspects of his life in the second half of the 20th century: the research of his professional career, and his personal crusade to inform society of biological developments and involve us all in deciding how the new knowledge should be applied. Since he has made a significant contribution in both areas, the book is a fascinating read. He provides a frank but kindly description of his collaborators and other researchers, and an insightful account of science as practiced in several very different laboratories...Society is very much the better for the efforts of those such as Beckwith who clearly enjoy the challenge of describing complex issues to non-specialists and participating in debates as to how new knowledge should be used.
— Ian Wilmut
International Microbiology
Making Genes, Making Waves is a compelling history of the controversies in genetics over the last half century.
— Carmen Chica
Library Journal
Even though science indisputably affects society, many believe that science should not be used as a tool for social activism. Beckwith, a pioneering geneticist, argues that, quite the contrary, scientists have a special duty to society by virtue of the kind of work they do. Beckwith's social commitment, amply illustrated in the causes he has supported, is evident throughout this fast-paced memoir. As far back as 1969, when he announced the discovery of a technique for isolating a gene, Beckwith cautioned of the possibly dire consequences of genetic engineering. Many of the most difficult ethical choices confronting modern science have emerged from his field, and he is especially worried when biological explanations are proposed for complex human behaviors. This first-person testimony to a life dedicated equally to science and social responsibility belongs in history and sociology of science collections. Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674009288
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 254
  • Sales rank: 1,344,087
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Jon Beckwith is American Cancer Society Research Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School.
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Table of Contents

1. The Quail Farmer and the Scientist

2. Becoming a Scientist

3. Becoming an Activist

4. On Which Side Are the Angels?

5. The Tarantella of the Living

6. Does Science Take a Back Seat to Politics?

7. Their Own Atomic History

8. The Myth of the Criminal Chromosome

9. It's the Devil in Your DNA

10. I'm Not Very Scary Anymore

11. Story-Telling in Science

12. Geneticists and the Two Cultures

13. The Scientist and the Quail Farmer

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

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