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Making Genes, Making Waves: A Social Activist in Scienceby Jon Beckwith
Synopses & Reviews
In 1969, Jon Beckwith and his colleagues succeeded in isolating a gene from the chromosome of a living organism. Announcing this startling achievement at a press conference, Beckwith took the opportunity to issue a public warning about the dangers of genetic engineering. Jon Beckwith's book, the story of a scientific life on the front line, traces one remarkable man's dual commitment to scientific research and social responsibility over the course of a career spanning most of the postwar history of genetics and molecular biology.
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, Making Genes, Making Waves is also a compelling history of the major controversies in genetics over the last thirty years. Presenting the science in easily understandable terms, Beckwith describes the dramatic changes that transformed biology between the late 1950s and our day, the growth of the radical science movement in the 1970s, and the personalities involved throughout. He brings to light the differing styles of scientists as well as the different ways in which science is presented within the scientific community and to the public at large. Ranging from the travails of Robert Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb to the Human Genome Project and recent "Science Wars," Beckwith's book provides a sweeping view of science and its social context in the latter half of the twentieth century.
"The prose is straightforward, and Beckwith is refreshingly frank, revealing the divagations and doubts that marked his course in research." Daniel J. Kevles, American Scientist
"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." Ute Deichmann, Nature
"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." New Scientist [UK]
"This is a strikingly honest and sensitive self-appraisal of trying to integrate a life in science with an equally committed life of social activism. It has special credibility coming from one of America's most distinguished microbiologists. It is a must read for any young scientist who is concerned by the tension between the beautiful rationality of science and the sometimes ugly outcomes of its application. In particular, Beckwith grapples with the harmful fallout that genetic studies might generate." David Baltimore, President, California Institute of Technology, and Alice S. Huang, Senior Councilor for External Relations, California Institute of Technology
"In this book, Beckwith produces a fine parallel to what he has accomplished in his life — a balance between science and humanism that is both extraordinary and exemplary." Troy Duster, Professor of Sociology, New York University
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, Making Genes, Making Waves is also a compelling history of the major controversies in genetics over the last thirty years.
About the Author
Jon Beckwith is American Cancer Society Research Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School.
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
What Our Readers Are Saying
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